Threats from the surroundings: an e-workshop on the importance of environment for the evolution of protoplanetary discs and formation of planets

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On-line on November 10-12 2020


Growing evidence indicates that protoplanetary discs (and by extension, forming planets) are significantly affected by the environment in which they form. In particular:

  • Discs are externally evaporated by the interstellar UV radiation field due to massive nearby stars which can reduce their mass, size and lifetime. It is becoming increasingly apparent that this is important for most discs, from recent theoretical as well as observational results.

  • Discs can be subject to intense dynamical encounters, that can severely truncate them and trigger accretion and outflow events (e.g. RW Aur), especially in tight binary systems and in denser regions of clusters

  • The strength of the UV field is dependent on the masses and locations of stars and gas in the cluster, as well as the stellar cluster dynamical history 

  • The radionuclide content of discs and planetesimals is influenced by external enrichment from massive stars, both locally in the cluster and in the recent history of the Galactic neighbourhood. 


We therefore need to move beyond the picture of planet-forming discs as isolated systems. To date, we have focused on the nearest discs, which are in relatively uncommon sparse and low-mass stellar groups (e.g. Taurus, Lupus, TWA) where the impact of the environment is weak. While useful laboratories for understanding disc physics and planet-disc interactions, the most well-studied discs are far from typical, being more massive, larger, and longer-lived. This has led to the importance of the environment being repeatedly overlooked.


This e-workshop (see Format) aims to 

  • Bring together the community to share our current understanding of the different ways that the large-scale environment around individual discs shapes disc evolution and planet formation. 

  • Review the role the environment plays on the evolution of discs, and thus on planet formation. 

  • Shape the future direction of research in this regard through new ideas and collaborations, as well as to plan possible new observing proposals. 

In order to facilitate the discussion, the number of "talking" participants (see Format) will be limited to about 60 persons (final number TBD), selected by the SOC based on scientific relevance to the topic, considering all career stages and reflecting diversity. [NB: in the end we were able to accept all requests for "talking" participants, and for "watching" participants.] The other interested registered colleagues will be able to follow the live talks and discussions and will have the possibility to ask questions through chat/e-mail. Colleagues who are only interested in the latter possibility are encouraged to indicate this in the registration form.

Please also consider that a broader conference on protoplanetary discs and planet formation is being organized virtually in December (HLTau2020).

For information please contact If you want to receive future information on the e-workshop, please fill in the registration form (abstract submission not mandatory if you do not want full participation, see Format) and/or follow us on twitter (#TftS2020).