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AAAS – The Chemistry & Physics of Nascent Planet Formation

by Davis Murphy last modified Jan 22, 2018 by Mark Adams

AAAS 2018 Science Symposium: The Chemistry and Physics of Nascent Planetary Systems

This symposium will explore how our understanding of the chemistry and physics of planet formation is being propelled dramatically forward by astronomical observations with a new generation of long-baseline radio interferometers, including the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in central New Mexico and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile. Radio-wavelength emission from astronomical objects is little affected by intervening dust and gas, and radio telescopes can probe deep into regions of star and planet formation that are largely inaccessible at optical and infrared wavelengths, such as the interiors of the protoplanetary disks where planets are being born. Astronomers now have access to orders of magnitude better centimeter- and millimeter-wavelength sensitivity, broader wavelength coverage, and increased imaging and spectral resolution, all of which are contributing to rapid advances in our observational and theoretical understanding of the kinematics, chemistry, composition, structure, and evolution of planet formation. This symposium will describe the latest astronomical observations of the chemistry and physics of planet formation and how astronomers are using these data to craft increasingly sophisticated models that span the diversity of known planetary systems. 


 1.    Karin Öberg (Harvard University)
The Chemistry of Planet Formation

Planetary systems assemble from dust and gas in disks around young stars. The compositions of nascent planets and their chemical habitability are determined by the chemical composition of these disks. ALMA has enabled astronomers to observe this chemistry with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. I will review these observations, including detections of snowlines and organic molecules, and discuss how ALMA is informing our understanding of the chemistry that shapes planet formation.

2.    David J. Wilner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
New Views of Planet-Forming Disks with ALMA

The circumstellar disks that naturally arise from the star formation process are the sites where planets form. Radio interferometry provides direct access to emission from millimeter-size dust grains in these disks, with ALMA now able to reach the scale of Earth-like orbits in nearby systems. I will describe recent results that include evidence for grain growth, radial drift, and ring-like substructures that may be related to planets but whose origin remains to be fully explained. 

3.     A. Meredith Hughes (Wesleyan University)
Circumstellar Disks as Signposts of Planetary Systems

The gas and dust left over from the formation of a star provide the raw material and initial conditions for planetary systems. As planets form, they interact with this material and imprint signatures of their presence on the disk. I will present radio-wavelength observations that measure the vertical structure of a debris disk to provide a census of the total mass in a planetary system, as well as some of the earliest evidence of planets forming in a disk in Orion. 

Mark T. Adams (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)