With close to 2000 detected planets, it is striking that we still do not
understand how planets form. Their building blocks form in gas disks
around young stars, where colliding dust grains form ever-larger
aggregates. But this growth is not without limits: larger particles
quickly drift towards the star and collide at speeds that shatter them
to pieces, long before gravity can bind them together. The mechanisms
involved in the assembly and transport of these building blocks remain
some of the biggest mysteries of planet formation.
Solids in protoplanetary disks evolve differently than the gas, but not
independent of it. Observations allow us to directly probe particle
growth – the first stage of planet formation. But the gas-solids
coupling also enables us to probe the gas disk structure indirectly –
just like we cannot see the wind, but we see leaves being moved by it.
With this proposal I want to answer some of the key questions of planet
formation: (1) What mechanisms drive disk evolution? (2) What role do
solids play in the transport of volatiles and the pre-biotic building
blocks of life? We will for the first time couple detailed models of the
evolution of solids in protoplanetary disks with chemical models on the
one side and with hydrodynamical simulations on the other. We aim to
derive the unique observable fingerprints of these processes and link
those predictions to upcoming observations.
With the advent of the ALMA observatory, the prospects of finding these
fingerprints are excellent. ALMA will allow us to test our predictions
through a wide range of observables at unprecedented sensitivity and
resolution, including dust continuum emission, chemical abundance
patterns, and isotopic ratios in disks, comets, and our solar system.
With our work designed to interpret these observations, we will set the
stage for a future understanding of protoplanetary disks and planet
Fields of science
Funding SchemeERC-STG - Starting Grant
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