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Imaging the signatures of planet formation using spectro-interferometry


Star and planet formation is one of the most active and exciting research areas of modern astrophysics. Many of the open questions in this field are related to the structure and physics of the innermost regions of protoplanetary disks, where material is transported onto the forming star, ejected in powerful jets & outflows, or accreted onto newly formed planets. However, most of the aforementioned processes take place very close to the star, which has prevented a direct investigation with imaging observations so far. The aim of this project is to employ the new opportunities provided by infrared and sub-millimeter interferometry in order to explore the AU-scale inner regions in protoplanetary disks for the first time with direct imaging. The obtained images will reveal the fundamental inner disk structure and allow us to search for planet-related disk surface features, such as tidally cleared gaps or hot accretion spots around embedded protoplanets. In order to derive the physical conditions & composition of the detected structures, we will combine near-infrared, mid-infrared, and sub-millimeter interferometry using the VLTI+CHARA+ALMA array.

In order to pursue this research I plan to establish a dedicated group at the University of Exeter, which is already one of the leading groups in star- and planet-formation theory in the UK. The Marie Curie CIG grant will be essential, (1) to hire a student that will work specifically on the planet formation-related aspects, and (2) to obtain travel funds that are required to continue and intensify my involvement with the CHARA interferometer group. We will collaborate closely with the radiative transfer and hydrodynamics experts at Exeter, enabling a sophisticated interpretation of our data. Our approach will result in an unprecedented global view on the structure and physical processes in protoplanetary disks and help us to understand how planets are forming and how they interact with the disk material.

Call for proposal

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The Queen's Drive Northcote House
EX4 4QJ Exeter
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 100 000
Administrative Contact
Gaynor Hughes (Ms.)