Tests of the episodic mass accretion model for low-mass star formation



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



A wide range of observed luminosities of young forming stars conflicts with predictions of the standard star formation model, which features a constant accretion rate. To resolve this discrepancy, an episodic accretion model has been suggested. The focus of this dissertation is to test this model in low mass star formation. I present new observations of the CB130 region. The observed photometric data from Spitzer and ground-based telescopes are used to determine the luminosity, and radiative transfer modeling of dust and gas are used to characterize the envelope and disk. I compare molecular line observations to models to constrain the chemical characteristics and abundance variations. Based on the chemical model result and molecular line observations, the low luminosity of the embedded protostar is explained better as a quiescent stage between episodic accretion bursts rather than as the first hydrostatic core stage. I present CO₂ ice observations toward 19 low luminosity embedded protostars. About half of the sources have evidence for pure CO₂ ice, and six have significant double-peaked features, which are strong evidence of pure CO₂ ice. The presence of detectable amounts of pure CO₂ ice signify a higher past luminosity, consistent with the past high accretion. Using chemical evolution modeling, the episodic accretion scenario, in which mixed CO-CO₂ ice is converted to pure CO₂ ice during each high luminosity phase, explains the presence of pure CO₂ ice, the total amount of CO₂ ice, and the observed residual C18O gas. I used CARMA to observe a sample of embedded protostars that spans the full range of protostellar luminosities, especially lower luminosity sources. The standard model predicts the disk mass increases steadily while the episodic accretion model predicts no clear relationship between disk mass and bolometric temperature. Masses of six detected disks spread out regardless of bolometric temperature. With the pure CO₂ ice detection, I can explain disk masses of the source in the context of episodic mass accretion. I conclude that episodic mass accretion provides a good explanation of the low luminosity of protostars, molecular line strength, pure CO₂ ice detection, total CO₂ ice amount and spread of disk masses.