Colloquium by Jane Huang, University of Michigan
The discoveries of thousands of exoplanets have presented a number of puzzles about their properties and origins. Until recently, though, many of the key assumptions of planet formation models could not be examined directly. Through analysis of deep, high resolution images of protoplanetary disks from ALMA and VLT/SPHERE, we are now finding that the natal environments of planets are far more dynamic and varied than previously thought. The widespread presence of gaps and rings in disks indicates that giant planet formation occurs readily on Myr-timescales, sometimes at surprisingly large separations from the host star. Detections of complex large-scale structures connected to disks increasingly suggest that environmental interactions play an important role not only in the early stages of star formation, but also at more evolved stages of planet formation. Molecular observations are revealing strong chemical heterogeneity within and between disks, laying the observational groundwork necessary to investigate the link between the compositions of planets and their formation sites. I will close by highlighting how deeper and more comprehensive surveys with current state-of-the-art telescopes, as well as access to new facilities such as JWST and ngVLA, will yield a wealth of new insights into how planets are shaped by the diverse range of conditions under which they emerge.
Followed by wine and cheese.
Host: David Schiminovich