Transitional disks are objects whose inner disk regions have undergone substantial clearing. The Spitzer Space Telescope produced detailed spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of transitional disks that allowed us to infer their radial dust disk structure in some detail, revealing the diversity of this class of disks. The growing sample of transitional disks also opened up the possibility of demographic studies, which provided unique insights. There now exist (sub)millimeter and infrared images that confirm the presence of large clearings of dust in transitional disks. In addition, protoplanet candidates have been detected within some of these clearings. Transitional disks are thought to be a strong link to planet formation around young stars and are a key area to study if further progress is to be made on understanding the initial stages of planet formation. Here we provide a review and synthesis of transitional disk observations to date with the aim of providing timely direction to the field, which is about to undergo its next burst of growth as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reaches its full potential. We discuss what we have learned about transitional disks from SEDs, color-color diagrams, and imaging in the (sub)millimeter and infrared. We note the limitations of these techniques, particularly with respect to the sizes of the clearings currently detectable, and highlight the need for pairing broadband SEDs with multi-wavelength images to paint a more detailed picture of transitional disk structure. We review the gas in transitional disks, keeping in mind that future observations with ALMA will give us unprecedented access to gas in disks, and also observed infrared variability pointing to variable transitional disk structure, which may have implications for disks in general. We then distill the observations into constraints for the main disk-clearing mechanisms proposed to date (i.e., photoevaporation, grain growth, and companions) and explore how the expected observational signatures from these mechanisms, particularly planet-induced disk clearing, compare to actual observations. Finally, we discuss future avenues of inquiry to be pursued with ALMA, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and the next generation of groundbased telescopes.
Protostars and Planets VI
- Pub Date:
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- 24 pages, 13 figures, Accepted for publication as a chapter in Protostars and Planets VI, University of Arizona Press (2014), eds. H. Beuther, R. Klessen, C. Dullemond, Th. Henning