Ruobing Dong from the University of Arizona will be the featured speaker at the next Department of Physics and Astronomy colloquium. His talk is titled, "Observational Planet Formation."
Planets form in gaseous protoplanetary disks surrounding newborn stars. As such, the most direct way to learn how they form from observations, is to directly watch them forming in disks. In the past, this was very difficult due to a lack of observational capabilities; as such, planet formation was largely a subject of pure theoretical astrophysics. Now, thanks to a fleet of new instruments with unprecedented resolving power that have come online recently, we have just started to unveil features in resolve images of protoplanetary disks, such as gaps and spiral arms, that are most likely associated with embedded (unseen) planets. By comparing observations with theoretical models of planet-disk interactions, the masses and orbits of these still forming planets may be constrained. Such planets help us to directly test various planet formation models. This marks the onset of a new field — observational planet formation. Dong will review the current status of this field, highlight some of the latest major developments, and discuss where this field is heading.