Evidence for disk photoevaporation driven by the central star

I. Pascucci, M. Sterzik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


The lifetime of isolated protoplanetary disks is thought to be set by the combination of viscous accretion and photoevaporation driven by stellar high-energy photons. Observational evidence for magnetospheric accretion in young Sun-like stars is robust. Here we report the first observational evidence for disk photoevaporation driven by the central star. We acquired high-resolution (R 30,000) spectra of the [NeII] 12.81 μm line from seven circumstellar disks using VISIR on Melipal/VLT. We show that the three transition disks in the sample all have [NeII] line profiles consistent with those predicted by a photoevaporative flow driven by stellar extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) photons. The 6 km s-1 blueshift of the line from the almost face-on disk of TW Hya is clearly inconsistent with emission from a static disk atmosphere and convincingly points to the presence of a photoevaporative wind. We do not detect any [NeII] line close to the stellar velocity from the sample of classical optically thick (nontransition) disks. We conclude that most of the spectrally unresolved [NeII] emission in these less-evolved systems arises from jets/outflows rather than from the disk. The pattern of the [NeII] detections and nondetections suggests that EUV-driven photoevaporation starts only at a later stage in the disk evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-732
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Infrared: stars
  • Planetary systems: protoplanetary disks
  • Stars: individual

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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