Saturday, June 18, 2016

Insights into planet formation from debris disks

Insights into planet formation from debris disks: I. The solar system as an archetype for planetesimal evolution


Matthews et al


Circumstellar disks have long been regarded as windows into planetary systems. The advent of high sensitivity, high resolution imaging in the submillimetre where both the solid and gas components of disks can be detected opens up new possibilities for understanding the dynamical histories of these systems and therefore, a better ability to place our own solar system, which hosts a highly evolved debris disk, in context. Comparisons of dust masses from protoplanetary and debris disks have revealed a stark downturn in mass in millimetre-sized grains around a stellar age of 10 Myr, ostensibly in the "transition disk" phase, suggesting a period of rapid accretion of such grains onto planetesimals. This rapid formation phase is in keeping with radionucleide studies of Kuiper Belt Objects in the solar system. Importantly, this suggests that any thermal gradients in the gas of disks of this era will be "frozen in" to the planetesimals as they rapidly accrete from the solids and ices in their vicinity. Measurements of radial gradients in thermal tracers such as DHO, DCN and other tracers can therefore provide insight into the nascent solar system's abudances. In studies of dynamical evolution of the solar system, it is tacitly assumed that such abundances can reveal the location of formation for bodies now found in the asteroid belt and Kuiper belt. Similarly, evidence of gas detected from collisional evolution in young debris disks could potentially reveal how rapidly objects have dynamically evolved in those systems, most of which will be significantly younger than the solar system.

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