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Imaging Protoplanetary Disks with a Square Kilometer Array

By SpaceRef Editor
April 23, 2005
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Astrophysics, abstract

From: David J. Wilner [view email]
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 16:16:46 GMT (432kb)

Imaging Protoplanetary Disks with a Square Kilometer Array

D. J. Wilner

Comments: 14 pages, 8 figures, to appear in "Science with the Square Kilometer
Array," eds. C. Carilli and S. Rawlings, New Astronomy Reviews (Elsevier:

The recent detections of extrasolar giant planets has revealed a surprising
diversity of planetary system architectures, with many very unlike our Solar
System. Understanding the origin of this diversity requires multi-wavelength
studies of the structure and evolution of the protoplanetary disks that
surround young stars. Radio astronomy and the Square Kilometer Array will play
a unique role in these studies by imaging thermal dust emission in a
representative sample of protoplanetary disks at unprecedented sub-AU scales in
the innermost regions, including the “habitable zone” that lies within a few
AU of the central stars. Radio observations will probe the evolution of dust
grains up to centimeter-sized “pebbles”, the critical first step in
assembling giant planet cores and terrestrial planets, through the wavelength
dependence of dust emissivity, which provides a diagnostic of particle size.
High resolution images of dust emission will show directly mass concentrations
and features in disk surface density related to planet building, in particular
the radial gaps opened by tidal interactions between planets and disks, and
spiral waves driven by embedded protoplanets. Moreover, because orbital
timescales are short in the inner disk, synoptic studies over months and years
will show proper motions and allow for the tracking of secular changes in disk
structure. SKA imaging of protoplanetary disks will reach into the realm of
rocky planets for the first time, and they will help clarify the effects of the
formation of giant planets on their terrestrial counterparts.

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