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Photograph of Ross Church

Ross Church

Senior lecturer

Photograph of Ross Church

Rapid destruction of protoplanetary discs due to external photoevaporation in star-forming regions


  • Rhana B Nicholson
  • Richard J Parker
  • Ross P Church
  • Melvyn B Davies
  • Niamh M Fearon
  • Sam R J Walton

Summary, in English

We analyse N-body simulations of star-forming regions to investigate the effects of external
far- and extreme-ultraviolet photoevaporation from massive stars on protoplanetary discs. By
varying the initial conditions of simulated star-forming regions, such as the spatial distribution,
net bulk motion (virial ratio), and density, we investigate which parameters most affect the rate
at which discs are dispersed due to external photoevaporation. We find that disc dispersal due to
external photoevaporation is faster in highly substructured star-forming regions than in smooth
and centrally concentrated regions. Subvirial star-forming regions undergoing collapse also
show higher rates of disc dispersal than regions that are in virial equilibrium or are expanding.
In moderately dense (∼100 M pc −3 ) regions, half of all protoplanetary discs with radii
≥100 au are photoevaporated within 1 Myr, three times faster than is currently suggested by
observational studies. Discs in lower density star-forming regions (∼10 M pc −3 ) survive for
longer, but half are still dispersed on short time-scales (∼2 Myr). This demonstrates that the
initial conditions of the star-forming regions will greatly impact the evolution and lifetime of
protoplanetary discs. These results also imply that either gas giant planet formation is extremely
rapid and occurs before the gas component of discs is evaporated, or gas giants only form
in low-density star-forming regions where no massive stars are present to photoevaporate gas
from protoplanetary discs.


  • Lund Observatory - Has been reorganised
  • eSSENCE: The e-Science Collaboration

Publishing year







Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society



Document type

Journal article


Oxford University Press


  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology




  • ISSN: 0035-8711