Molecular hydrogen in the circumstellar environments of Herbig Ae/Be stars probed by FUSE
Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Grenoble, CNRS, Université Joseph-Fourier, UMR 5571, Grenoble, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille, BP 8, Les trois Lucs, 13376 Marseille Cedex 12, France
3 LUTH, Observatoire de Paris, Université Paris 7, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France
4 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
5 Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
6 Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy
7 Department of Physics and Astronomy, JHU, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
8 Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, 98bis boulevard Arago, 75014 Paris, France
Accepted: 13 March 2008
Context. Molecular hydrogen (H2) gas is the most abundant molecule in the circumstellar (CS) environments of young stars. It is thus a key element in our understanding of the evolution of pre-main sequence stars and their environments towards the main sequence.
Aims. At the present time, little is known about the gas as compared to the dust in the environments of young stars. We thus observed molecular hydrogen around a sample of pre-main sequence stars in order to better characterize their gaseous CS environments.
Methods. The FUSE (Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) spectral range offers access to electronic transitions of H2. We analyzed the FUSE spectra of a sample of Herbig Ae/Be stars (HAeBes) covering a broad spectral range (from F4 to B2), including the main-sequence A5 star β Pictoris. To better diagnose the origin of the detected molecular gas and its excitation conditions, we used a model of a photodissociation region.
Results. Our analysis demonstrates that the excitation of H2 is clearly different around most of the HAeBes compared to the interstellar medium. Moreover, the characteristics of H2 around Herbig Ae and Be stars give evidence for different excitation mechanisms. For the most massive stars of our sample (B8 to B2 type), the excitation diagrams are reproduced well by a model of photodissociation regions (PDR). Our results favor an interpretation in terms of large CS envelopes, remnants of the molecular clouds in which the stars were formed. On the other hand, the group of Ae stars (later than B9 type) known to possess disks is more inhomogeneous. In most cases, when CS H2 is detected, the lines of sight do not pass through the disks. The excitation conditions of H2 around Ae stars cannot be reproduced by PDR models and correspond to warm and/or hot excited media very close to the stars. In addition, no clear correlation has been found between the ages of the stars and the amount of circumstellar H2. Our results suggest structural differences between Herbig Ae and Be star environments. Herbig Be stars do evolve faster than Ae stars, and consequently, most Herbig Be stars are younger than Ae ones at the time we observe them. It is thus more likely to find remnants of their parent cloud around them.
Key words: stars: circumstellar matter / stars: formation / stars: pre-main sequence / ISM: molecules
© ESO, 2008