Institution(s): 1. University of Texas, 2. University of Virginia
Characterization of how dense molecular cores evolve into stars has historically been made through observational changes in their 2 to 25 micron spectral energy distribution (SED) or bolometric temperature via the Class system. Linking these observational classes to a physical protostellar phase or Stages in a consistent manner remains challenging. In order to provide a uniform indicator of whether an observationally classified embedded protostar candidate is likely to be a physical phase Stage 0 or I protostar, we performed an HCO+ (J=3-2) survey of Class 0+I and Flat SED young stellar objects (YSOs) in the Spitzer nearby (D < 500 pc) Gould Belt cloud surveys. We use criteria from van Kempen et al. (2009) to classify sources as Stage 0+I or bona fide protostars and find 84% of our HCO+ detected sources meet that criteria. We recommend 0.54 Myr as an evolutionary timescale for these embedded protostars. We discuss trends in our sample with spatial distribution, molecular cloud extinction, spectral index, and bolometric temperature and luminosity.