PSJC #64 Apr 5 2010

Hannah Jang-Condell (UMd)

Catching Planet Formation in the Act: Connecting Protoplanetary Disk Theory to Observations

Over 300 exoplanets have been discovered to date, with orbital parameters entirely unlike our our Solar System. The question of how these planetary systems arise must be studied in the context of how planets interact with the circumstellar disks from which they form. In turn, planet formation theory must be studied in conjunction with observations of circumstellar disks. Embryonic planets dynamically interact with the primordial disks in which they form. Sufficiently massive planets they can open annular gaps in the disk. However, smaller planets can still perturb disks enough to to be potentially observable. I will compare theoretical models of planet shadows in disks to observations of real disks that may show evidence of embedded planets. I will demonstrate that current instrumentation is already able to detect planets at tens to hundreds of AU from their stars.