Institute of Astronomy

Caught in the act: direct detection of forming planets

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Matthias R. Schreiber29 July 2014Across HR 2014 Talks


Although more than 1000 exoplanets have been detected to date, the precise mechanisms through which planets form remain largely unknown. The situation is particularly troubling for giant planets, for which two very dissimilar formation theories exist, namely core accretion and gravitational instability. The direct detection of forming giant planets still embedded in a protoplanetary disk is the most promising pathway towards a better understanding of planet formation and it is within reach of current observing techniques. Based on measurements of disk masses, multiplicity, accretion rates, and SED morphology of a large sample of protoplanetary disks we selected the best candidate systems for ongoing giant planet formation. Using NaCo Sparse Aperture Masking we potentially directly detected forming planets in some of our candidates and modeling complementary ALMA observations of these systems allowed us to characterize the surrounding planet forming disks. I will present the observational results of this project, discuss the reliability of NaCo/SAM detections, and relate our findings to current theories of giant planet formation.