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Protoplanetary disc structure & planet formation signatures resolved with interferometry

Speaker: Prof. Stefan Kraus (University of Exeter)
Date: Wednesday 8 May 2019
Time: 15:00
Venue: Queens Buildings N/3.28

Among the most fascinating and hotly-debated areas in contemporary astrophysics are the means by which planetary systems are assembled from the large rotating discs of gas and dust that attend a stellar birth. In this talk I will review how high-angular resolution observations have helped to shape our understanding of protoplanetary disc structure. Interferometric observations at infrared wavelengths showed that the disc undergoes a dramatic transition from a dust+gas composition to a purely gaseous disc in the innermost astronomical unit. The resulting strong pressure gradient in the region might lead to a pileup of dust grains that could trigger the formation of rocky planets. Multi-wavelength interferometric observations revealed also systems with clear signatures of grain growth or extended optically thin gaps, likely tracing systems in the later stages of disc evolution and with ongoing planet formation. I will also give an overview about MIRC-X, which is a 6-telescope beam combination instrument that has recently been commissioned by our team. Combining the light from all six CHARA telescopes simultaneously, MIRC-X achieves the image sharpness of a 330m telescope and has been build to image time-variable structures in the inner region of protoplanetary discs.