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Multiple Star Formation


Kraus, Adam L. (2010) Multiple Star Formation. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/N0KT-QH17.


In this thesis, I present a study of the formation and evolution of stars, particularly multiple stellar systems. Binary stars provide a key constraint on star formation because any successful model should reproduce the mass-dependent frequency, distribution of separations, and distribution of mass ratios. I have pursued a number of surveys for different ranges of parameter space, all yielding one overarching conclusion: binary formation is fundamentally tied to mass. Solar-mass stars have a high primordial binary frequency (50%--75%) and a wide range of separations (extending to >10,000 AU), but as the system mass decreases, the frequency and separation distribution also decrease. For brown dwarfs, binaries are rare (~10%--15%) and have separations of <5 AU. Inside of this outer separation cutoff, the separation distribution appears to be log-flat for solar-mass stars, and perhaps for lower-mass systems. Solar-mass binary systems appear to have a flat mass ratio distribution, but for primary masses <0.3 Msun, the distribution becomes increasingly biased toward similar-mass companions.

My results also constrain the binary formation timescale and the postformation evolutionary processes that sculpt binary populations. The dynamical interaction timescale in sparse associations like Taurus and Upper Sco is far longer than their ages, which suggests that those populations are dynamically pristine. However, binary systems in denser clusters undergo significant dynamical processing that strips outer binary companions; the difference in wide binary properties between my sample and the field is explained by the composite origin of the field population. I also have placed the individual components of young binary systems on the HR diagram in order to infer their coevality. In Taurus, binary systems are significantly more coeval (Δτ~0.5 Myr) than the association as a whole (Δτ~3--5 Myr).

Finally, my survey of young very-low-mass stars and brown dwarfs found no planetary-mass companions like the prototypical system 2M1207A+b. Modeling the population as either "super-Planets" or "failed binaries" indicates that the total frequency of companions with masses >1 MJup is <1%--2%. My survey of young solar-mass stars found no brown dwarf companions; evidence in favor of the brown dwarf desert is marginal, but my results do not exclude its existence.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:astronomy; binary stars; star formation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Astrophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Hillenbrand, Lynne A.
Group:Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Brown, Michael E. (chair)
  • Phinney, E. Sterl
  • Cohen, Judith G.
  • Hillenbrand, Lynne A.
  • Scoville, Nicholas Zabriskie
Defense Date:13 July 2009
Non-Caltech Author Email:alk (AT)
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-08252009-233632
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:3227
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:03 Sep 2009
Last Modified:30 May 2023 22:15

Thesis Files

PDF (kraus_thesis.pdf) - Final Version
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