Volatiles in the protoplanetary disk

Seminar Date: 
28 Nov 2013 - 11:00
Speaker: 
K. Pontoppidan
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, United States

Volatiles are compounds with low sublimation temperatures, and they make up most of the condensible mass in typical planet-forming environments. They typically consist of relatively small, often hydrogenated, molecules based on the abundant elements carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Volatiles are central to the process of planet formation, forming the backbone of a rich chemistry that sets the initial conditions for the formation of planetary atmospheres, and acts as a solid mass reservoir catalyzing the formation of planet and planetesimals. Since Protostars and Planets V, our understanding of the evolution of volatiles in protoplanetary environments has grown tremendously. This growth has been driven by rapid advances in observations and models of protoplanetary disks, and of a deepening understanding of the cosmochemistry of the solar system. Indeed, it is only in the past few years that representative samples of molecules have been discovered in great abundance throughout protoplanetary disks (CO, H2O, HCN, C2H2, CO2, H2D+, HCO+) - enough to begin building a complete budget for the most abundant elements after hydrogen and helium. The spatial distributions of key volatiles are being mapped, snow lines are directly seen and quantified, and distinct chemical regions within protoplanetary disks are being identified, characterized and modeled. Theoretical processes invoked to explain the solar system record are now being observationally constrained in protoplanetary disks, including transport of icy bodies and concentration of bulk condensibles, strong thermal and chemical processing of inner disk material, along with the chemically gentle accretion of pristine material from the interstellar medium in the outer disk. This chapter focuses on making the first steps toward knowing whether the planet formation processes driving the final chemical makeup of our solar system are universal.