Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department



Brittain, Sean

Committee Member

Leising , Mark

Committee Member

King , Jeremy

Committee Member

Newby Spano , Meredith


Herbig Ae/Be stars(HAeBes) are young stellar objects of spectral class F2 through B0, with the central star often surrounded by a circumstellar disk of gas and dust. They are the higher mass analogs to T Tauri stars. The interaction between the star and the disk is not well understood, nor is the disk structure. The central star will often accrete mass from the disk, and the mass accretion rate is an important parameter for modeling the disk structure and evolution. The methods for measuring mass accretion rates of T Tauri stars are generally not applicable to HAeBe stars. As such, reliable measurements of mass accretion rates for HAeBes are rare. Garrison(1978) saw that the Balmer Discontinuity of HAeBes was veiled, and attributed this veiling to accretion luminosity. Building on Garrison(1978) and the work of Muzerolle et al. (2004), I determine the mass accretion rates and accretion luminosities of a large sample of HAeBe stars by measuring the veiling of the Balmer Discontinuity due to the accretion luminosity.
Muzerolle et al. (1998) established a strong correlation between the accretion luminosity of T Tauri stars and the luminosity of Br gamma, and this correlation seems to extend to the evolutionary precursors to HAeBes, intermediate T Tauri stars, as well Calvet et al. (2004). I test this correlation for HAeBes and discover that it is valid for HAe stars but not for HBe stars. From examining the HAeBes of my sample from spectral range A3 to B7, there does not seem to be a particular spectral type at which the correlation fails. A few of the late HBe stars are consistent with the correlation, but most of the HBe stars have Br gamma luminosities much larger than what one would expect from the correlation. This suggests that there might be a significant stellar wind component to the Br gamma luminosity for many of the HBe stars.
T Tauri stars accrete mass from their disks magnetospherically, in which the strong stellar field of the star truncates the disk at some distance from the star and the disk material than falls to the stellar surface along the magnetic field lines. HAeBe stars are not expected to have strong stellar magnetic fields, and observations have failed to find any such fields for most HAeBes (Alecian 2007). However, circumstantial evidence suggests that some HAeBe stars are accreting magnetospherically (Muzerolle et al. 2004, Brittain et al. 2009). Since the correlation between accretion luminosity and Br $gamma$ luminosity is valid for both T Tauri stars and HAe stars, this suggests that the same basic accretion process is occuring for both.