Institute of Astronomy

Debris Disk Theory

Debris disks are complex systems that involve interaction between a variety of physical processes: mutual collisions between particles in the disk that span sizes from micron-sized dust to 1000 km-sized dwarf planets, interaction with stellar radiation resulting in Poynting-Robertson drag and radiation pressure, gravitational perturbations from nearby planets or nearby stars, interaction with stellar winds, Lorentz forces, Yarkovsky forces, sublimation, gas drag, to name a few. Modelling of this interaction requires a variety of analytical and numerical techniques. Comparison with observations of the structure of debris disks, and of how the level of dust emission varies with age (by comparing dust around stars of different ages), as well as other stellar parameters, provide vital tests of the models. For example, the image below shows the clumpy structure of a planetesimal disk caused by the outward migration of a planet that traps many of the planetesimals into its mean motion resonances.

Page last updated: 25 February 2011 at 16:23