Astrophys. J., 740, 11 (2011/October-2)
Photometric determination of the mass accretion rates of pre-main-sequence stars. II. NGC 346 in the Small Magellanic Cloud.
DE MARCHI G., PANAGIA N., ROMANIELLO M., SABBI E., SIRIANNI M., PRADA MORONI P.G. and DEGL'INNOCENTI S.
Abstract (from CDS):
We have studied the properties of the stellar populations in the field of the NGC 346 cluster in the Small Magellanic Cloud, using a novel self-consistent method that allows us to reliably identify pre-main-sequence (PMS) objects actively undergoing mass accretion, regardless of their age. The method does not require spectroscopy and combines broadband V and I photometry with narrowband Hα imaging to identify all stars with excess Hα emission and derive the accretion luminosity Lacc and mass accretion rate for all of them. The application of this method to existing Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/Advanced Camera for Surveys photometry of the NGC 346 field has allowed us to identify and study 680 bona fide PMS stars with masses from ∼0.4 M ☉ to ∼4 M☉and ages in the range from ∼1 Myr to ∼30 Myr. Previous investigations of this region, based on the same data, had identified young (∼3 Myr old) candidate PMS stars on the basis of their broadband colors. In this study, we show that there are at least two, almost equally numerous, young populations with distinct ages of, respectively, ∼1 and ∼20 Myr. We provide accurate physical parameters for all of them. We take advantage of the unprecedented size of our PMS sample and of its spread in mass and age to study the evolution of the mass accretion rate as a function of stellar parameters. We find that, regardless of stellar mass, the mass accretion rate decreases with roughly the square root of the age, or about three times slower than predicted by current models of viscous disk evolution, and that more massive stars systematically have a higher mass accretion rate in proportion to their mass. A multivariate linear regression fit reveals that, where t is the age of the star, m is its mass, and c is a quantity that is higher at lower metallicity. This result is consistent with measurements of the mass accretion rate in the 30 Dor region and in the Milky Way and suggests that the longer duration for mass accretion could be related to lower metallicity. The high-mass accretion rates that we find suggest that a considerable amount of mass is accreted during the PMS phase, of order ∼0.2 M☉ or possibly ∼20% of the final mass for stars with mass m < 1 M☉ if their disks are eroded by 20 Myr, i.e., before they reach the main sequence. Therefore, PMS evolutionary models that do not account for this effect will systematically underestimate the true age when compared with the observations.
accretion, accretion disks - Magellanic Clouds - stars: formation - stars: pre-main sequence
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