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2014 Annual Science Report

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Reporting  |  SEP 2013 – DEC 2014

Long-Term Variation of High Energy Activity of Young Stars in Mass Accretion Outburst and Quiescence

Project Summary

High-energy photons in the young stellar environment are known to stimulate chemical reactions of molecules, producing prebiotic materials that might later be incorporated into comets and through them into young planets. Observational tests are sorely needed to assess the significance of such processing for Astrobiology, and to guide development of theoretical models for chemical evolution in protoplanetary environments.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
1 Publication
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

In this reporting period, we requested a Swift Target-of-Opportunity (ToO) observation to monitor long-term X-ray variations of the protostar V1647 Ori that currently experiences strong mass accretion. The observation was approved and performed in 2015 January. We also set up coordinated optical/near-infrared (IR) observations of the star with ground-based observatories.

We triggered a Target-of-Opportunity (ToO) observation of the erupting protostar V1647 Ori with the Swift observatory to monitor its recent X-ray activity. The X-ray observations of this star in 2010 and 2013, performed with the XMM-Newton and Swift X-ray observatories, detected a drop in the X-ray flux by an order of magnitude from observations taken earlier in the eruption. The new Swift observation was performed in 2015 January, and was coordinated with optical observations at Kitt Peak and the Japanese observatory network. During this observation, the protostar showed a low X-ray flux similar to the observations in 2010 and 2013, confirming the end of the X-ray eruption. The optical/near-infrared fluxes remained high (i.e., at the level of the eruption), suggesting that the mass accretion activity still continued. Since the optical/near-infrared emission is a direct indicator of the mass accretion activity, an mechanism other than mass accretion must play a role in the X-ray production.

    Robert Petre
    Project Investigator

    Kenji Hamaguchi

    Objective 2.2
    Outer Solar System exploration

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts