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Astronomy Colloquium

Thursday, November 8, 2012
5:00 AM
Dennison 807

"Planets in Protoplanetary Disks: From Theories to Observations"

Ralph B. Baldwin Prize in Astrophysics and Space Sciences Presentation

The interaction between young planets and the gaseous protoplanetary disks, from which they form, can significantly affect exoplanet demographics. Although most previous studies model the gaseous disk as a highly viscous disk, in reality protoplanetary disks are nearly inviscid, but strongly turbulent due to the magnetorotational instability (MRI). We have carried out large scale magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations to study planet-disk interaction in these turbulent disks. Furthermore, treating the thermal physics more accurately reveals a strong coupling between the planet's gravitational potential and buoyancy waves, which can affect both planet and disk dynamics. Observationally, recent near-IR spectroscopy, scattered light images, and sub-mm interferometry reveal gaps in protoplanetary disks. These observations, for the first time, put stringent limits on current planet-disk interaction theories. By comparing current theories with observations, we realize another important physics, widely ignored to date, is the dust dynamics in disks. Finally, I will try to connect current found exoplanets to protoplanetary disk structure.

Zhaohuan Zhu (UM Alumnus)/Princeton, 2012 Ralph B. Baldwin Prize in Astrophysics and Space Sciences recipient