The molecular nature of planet-forming disks in the era of ALMA

Series: 
Astronomy Unit Seminars
Speaker: 
Catherine Walsh
Host: 
Izaskun Jimenez-Serra
Date: 
January 20th, 2017 at 14:30
Room: 
GO Jones Room 610
Abstract: 

Submillimeter/millimeter interferometry with ALMA is giving us unprecedented insight into the molecular composition and structure of nearby protoplanetary disks.  Molecular emission from these objects is intrinsically weak due to their small size (a few arcseconds at most); however, by design, ALMA has the power to both detect and spatially resolve line emission from molecules other than CO (carbon monoxide).  For the first time, this enables the study of the composition of the gas and ice reservoir within and across the planet-forming zone.  In this seminar I will review recent results from ALMA of relevance to planet formation (e.g., determining the positions of snowlines) and comet composition (e.g., the detection of complex organic molecules).  I will discuss how these results are providing long-needed constraints for chemical models, as well as introducing new and exciting challenges.