Project E

Probing the building blocks of planets with ALMA

Łukasz Tychoniec, Maria Koutoulaki & Leonardo Testi

(email advisors)

First seeds of planets are made by small particles of interstellar dust sticking together. Help us to understand how, when and where the dust starts to grow as we explore ALMA observations of young Solar System analogues.

Stars and planets are formed from dense clouds of gas and dust. While dust contains only 1% of the total mass of the cloud, it plays a crucial part in planet formation. For example, Jupiter-like planets need to first assemble around 10 Earth masses of dust before they get heavy enough to start attracting gas. A key puzzle is how big are the grains at the onset of planet formation. Can they grow from tiny dust to pebbles already in the molecular cloud, or do they grow rapidly only in the inner regions of the protoplanetary disks?

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is a powerhouse for studies of interstellar dust as it is most sensitive to temperatures of tens of Kelvins, typical for dust grains in clouds that can form stars. Interferometric techniques enable us to zoom-in into the star-forming systems and probe the dust properties as they vary with distance from the young star. With a good understanding of multiwavelength interferometric data, a precise analysis of the dust properties can be conducted.

A prospective student will get a front seat in the analysis of the ALMA data both from the archive and from new projects. The student will acquire competencies with the ALMA data, calibration, imaging, and modeling to extract the astrophysical results. This will give the student a deeper understanding of interferometric techniques, which are key to study stars and planets in the making. Apart from gaining practical skills with state-of-the-art data, student will get experience in a breadth of topics covering astrophysics and astrochemistry.

#ALMA #interferometry #starformation #planetformation #interstellardust

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