The disc around MWC 147
MWC 147 is less than half a million years old. If one associated the middle-aged, 4.6 billion year old Sun with a person in his early forties, MWC 147 would be a 1-day-old baby .
The morphology of the inner environment of these young stars is however a matter of debate and knowledge of it is important to better understand how stars and their cortège of planets form.
The astronomers Stefan Kraus, Thomas Preibisch, and Keiichi Ohnaka have used the four 8.2-m Unit Telescopes of ESO's Very Large Telescope to this purpose, combining the light from two or three telescopes with the MIDI and AMBER instruments.
"With our VLTI/MIDI and VLTI/AMBER observations of MWC147, we combine, for the first time, near- and mid-infrared interferometric observations of a Herbig Ae/Be star, providing a measurement of the disc size over a wide wavelength range ," said Stefan Kraus, lead-author of the paper reporting the results. "Different wavelength regimes trace different temperatures, allowing us to probe the disc's geometry on the smaller scale, but also to constrain how the temperature changes with the distance from the star."
The near-infrared observations probe hot material with temperatures of up to a few thousand degrees in the innermost disc regions, while the mid-infrared observations trace cooler dust further out in the disc.
The observations show that the temperature changes with radius are much steeper than predicted by the currently favoured models, indicating that most of the near-infrared emission emerges from hot material located very close to the star, that is, within one or two times the Earth-Sun distance (1-2 AU). This also implies that dust cannot exist so close to the star, since the strong energy radiated by the star heats and ultimately destroys the dust grains.
The Region Around MWC 147
Close-up on MWC 147
"Our study demonstrates the power of ESO's VLTI to probe the inner structure of discs around young stars and to reveal how stars reach their final mass," said Stefan Kraus.
The authors report their results in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal ("Detection of an inner gaseous component in a Herbig Be star accretion disk: Near- and mid-infrared spectro-interferometry and radiative transfer modeling of MWC 147", by Stefan Kraus, Thomas Preibisch, Keichii Ohnaka").
 Being 6.6 times more massive than the Sun, however, MWC 147 will only live for about 35 million years, or to draw again the comparison with a person, about 100 days, instead of the 80 year equivalent of our Sun.
 MIDI is the mid-infrared instrument of the VLT interferometer. It operates between 8 and 13 microns. AMBER observes in the near-infrared, from 1 to 2.4 microns.
Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn, Germany