Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department



Brittain, Sean D

Committee Member

Daw , Murray S

Committee Member

Hartmann , Dieter H

Committee Member

Meyer , Bradley S


An important field of modern astronomy is the study of planets. Literally for millennia, careful observers of the night sky have tracked these 'wanderers', with their peculiar motions initiating avenues of inquiry not able to elucidated by a study of the stars alone: we have discovered that the planets (as well as Earth) orbit the sun and that the stars are so far away, even their relative positions do not seem to shift perceptibly when Earth's position moves hundreds of millions of miles. With the advent of the telescope, and subsequent improvements upon it over the course of centuries, accelerating to the dramatically immense telescopes available today and those on the horizon, we have been able to continuously probe farther and in more detail than the previous generation of scientists and telescopes allowed. Now, we are just entering the time when detection of planets outside of our own solar system has become possible, and we have found that planets are extraordinarily common in the galaxy (and by extrapolation, the universe). At the time of this document's composition, there are several thousand such examples of planets around other stars (being dubbed 'exoplanets'). We have discovered that planets are plentiful, but multiple open questions remain which are relevant to this work: How do planets form and, when a planet does form from its circumstellar envelope, what are the important processes that influence its formation?
This work adds to the understanding of circumstellar disks, the intermediate stage between a cold collapsing cloud (of gas and dust) and a mature planetary system. Specifically, we study circumstellar disks in an evolved state termed 'transition disks'. This state corresponds to a time period where the dust in the disk has either undergone grain growth - where the microscopic grains have clumped together to form far fewer dust particles of much higher mass, or the inner portion (or an inner annulus) of the disk has lost a large amount of gas due to either a massive planet accreting the material onto it or via a photoevaporation process whereby the central star's radiation field ejects material from the inner disk out of the bound system in the the interstellar medium. It is presumed that this phase is the last gasp of the planetary disk's evolution before the debris disk stage and before a fully formed solar system evolves.
Our work specifically focuses on one object of this transition disk class: HD100546. We add to the understanding of transition disks by showing that a model where ro-vibrational OH emission in the NIR is preferentially emitted along the 'wall' of the disk is consistent with observations, and furthermore that adding an eccentricity to this `wall' component is required to generate the necessary observed line shape. In conjunction with this observation we present supporting material which motivates the usage of such an eccentric wall component in light of predictions of the influence of giant planet formation occurring within the disk.