Chemistry of Protoplanetary Disks and Nascent Planets

Chemistry of protoplanetary disks and nascent planets - Karin Öberg

Karin Öberg
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
November 1, 2016

Exo-planets are common, and they span a large range of compositions.The origins of this   compositional diversity are largely unconstrained. Among planets that are Earth-like, a second question is how often such planets form hospitable to life. A fraction of exo-planets are observed to be ‘physically habitable’, i.e. of the right temperature and bulk composition to sustain a water-based prebiotic chemistry. This does not automatically imply, however, that they are rich in the building blocks of life, in organic molecules of different sizes and kinds, i.e. that they are chemically habitable. In this talk I will argue that characterizing the chemistry of protoplanetary disks, the formation sites of planets, is key to address both the origins of planetary bulk compositions and the likelihood of finding organic matter on planets. The most direct path to constrain the chemistry in disks is to directly observe it. In the age of ALMA it is for the first time possible to image the chemistry of planet formation, to determine locations of disk snowlines, and to map the distributions of different organic molecules. Recent ALMA highlights include constraints on CO snowline locations, the discovery of spectacular chemical ring systems, and first detections of more complex organic molecules. Observations can only provide chemical snapshots, however, and even ALMA is blind to the majority of the chemistry that shapes planet formation. To interpret observations and address the full chemical complexity in disks requires models, both toy models and astrochemical simulations. These models in turn must be informed by laboratory experiments, some of which will be shown in this talk. It is thus only when we combine observational, theoretical and experimental constraints that we can hope to characterize the chemistry of disks, and further, the chemical compositions of nascent planets.