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Published April 2023 | Published
Journal Article Open

Measurement of the Angular Momenta of Pre-main-sequence Stars: Early Evolution of Slow and Fast Rotators and Empirical Constraints on Spin-down Torque Mechanisms


We use TESS full-frame imaging data to investigate the angular momentum evolution of young stars in the Orion Complex. We confirm recent findings that stars with rotation periods faster than 2 days are overwhelmingly binaries, with typical separations of tens of au; such binaries quickly clear their disks, leading to a tendency for rapid rotators to be diskless. Among (nominally single) stars with rotation periods slower than 2 days, we observe the familiar gyrochronological horseshoe-shaped relationship of rotation period versus T_(eff_, indicating that the processes that govern the universal evolution of stellar rotation on gigayear timescales are already in place within the first few megayears. Using spectroscopic v sin i, we determine the distribution of sin i, revealing that the youngest stars are biased toward more pole-on orientations, which may be responsible for the systematics between stellar mass and age observed in star-forming regions. We are also able for the first time to make empirical, quantitative measurements of angular momenta and their time derivatives as functions of stellar mass and age, finding these relationships to be much simpler and monotonic as compared to the complex relationships involving rotation period alone; evidently, the relationship between rotation period and T_(eff) is largely a reflection of mass-dependent stellar structure and not of angular momentum per se. Our measurements show that the stars experience spin-down torques in the range of ∼10³⁷ erg at ∼1 Myr to ∼10³⁵ erg at ∼10 Myr, which provide a crucial empirical touchstone for theoretical mechanisms of angular momentum loss in young stars.

Additional Information

© 2023. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI. This work has made use of data from the European Space Agency (ESA) mission Gaia (https://www.cosmos.esa.int/gaia), processed by the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC; https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia/dpac/consortium). Funding for the DPAC has been provided by national institutions, in particular the institutions participating in the Gaia Multilateral Agreement. Software: TOPCAT (Taylor 2005), Plotly (Inc. 2015).

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023