Unveiling the structure of pre-transitional disks

C. Espaillat, P. D'Alessio, J. Hernández, E. Nagel, K. L. Luhman, D. M. Watson, N. Calvet, J. Muzerolle, M. McClure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Scopus citations


In the past few years, several disks with inner holes that are relatively empty of small dust grains have been detected and are known as transitional disks. Recently, Spitzer has identified a new class of "pre-transitional disks" with gaps based on near-infrared photometry and mid-infrared spectra; these objects have an optically thick inner disk separated from an optically thick outer disk by an optically thin disk gap. A near-infrared spectrum provided the first confirmation of a gap in the pre-transitional disk of LkCa 15 by verifying that the near-infrared excess emission in this object was due to an optically thick inner disk. Here, we investigate the difference between the nature of the inner regions of transitional and pre-transitional disks using the same veiling-based technique to extract the near-infrared excess emission above the stellar photosphere. However, in this work we use detailed disk models to fit the excess continua as opposed to the simple blackbody fits previously used. We show that the near-infrared excess emission of the previously identified pre-transitional disks of LkCa 15 and UX Tau A in the Taurus cloud as well as the newly identified pre-transitional disk of ROX 44 in Ophiuchus can be fit with an inner disk wall located at the dust destruction radius. We also present detailed modeling of the broadband spectral energy distributions of these objects, taking into account the effect of shadowing by the inner disk on the outer disk, but considering the finite size of the star, unlike other recent treatments. The near-infrared excess continua of these three pre-transitional disks, which can be explained by optically thick inner disks, are significantly different from that of the transitional disks of GM Aur, whose near-infrared excess continuum can be reproduced by emission from sub-micron-sized optically thin dust, and DM Tau, whose near-infrared spectrum is consistent with a disk hole that is relatively free of small dust. The structure of pre-transitional disks may be a sign of young planets forming in these disks and future studies of pre-transitional disks will provide constraints to aid in theoretical modeling of planet formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-457
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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