Exploring terrestrial planet formation in the TW hydrae association

Frank J. Low, Paul S. Smith, Michael Werner, Christine Chen, Vanessa Krause, Michael Jura, Dean C. Hines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Spitzer Space Telescope infrared measurements are presented for 24 members of the TW Hya association (TWA). High signal-to-noise ratio 24 μm photometry is presented for all these stars, including 20 stars that were not detected by IRAS. Among these 20 stars, only a single object, TWA 7, shows excess emission at 24 μm at the level of only 40% above the star's photosphere. TWA 7 also exhibits a strong 70 μm excess that is a factor of 40 brighter than the stellar photosphere at this wavelength. At 70 μm, an excess of similar magnitude is detected for TWA 13, although no 24 μm excess was detected for this binary. For the 18 stars that failed to show measurable IR excesses, the sensitivity of the current 70 μm observations does not rule out substantial cool excesses at levels 10-40 times above their stellar continua. Measurements of two T Tauri stars, TW Hya and Hen 6-300, confirm that their spectacular IR spectral energy distributions (SEDs) do not turn over even by 160 μm, consistent with the expectation for their active accretion disks. In contrast, the Spitzer data for the luminous planetary debris systems in the TWA, HD 98800B and HR 4796A, are consistent with single-temperature blackbody SEDs and agree with previous IR, submillimeter, and millimeter measurements. The major new result of this study is the dramatic bimodal distribution found for the association in the form of excess emission at a wavelength of 24 μm, indicating negligible amounts of warm (≳ 100 K) dust and debris around 20 of 24 stars in this group of very young stars. This bimodal distribution is especially striking given that the four stars in the association with strong IR excesses are ≳100 times brighter at 24 μm than their photospheres. Clearly, two terrestrial planetary systems, HD 98800B and HR 4796A, exist in some form. In addition, there are at least two active accreting objects, TW Hya and Hen 6-300, that may still be forming planetesimals. The remaining stars may possess significant amounts of cold dust, as in TWA 7 and 13, that have yet to be found.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1170-1179
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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