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STScI Astrobiology Lecture Series

Icy Origins: Snowlines During Star and Planet Formation

Presented by: Karin I. Öberg ((Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics))
Category: Science Colloquia   Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes   Broadcast date: November 01, 2013
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In the cold and dense stages of star and planet formation, volatile molecules condense out on interstellar grains forming icy mantles. This condensation process results in a series of snowlines, or condensation fronts, whose exact locations are set by a combination of thermal and non-thermal adsorption and desorption processes. The icy grain mantles are also active chemical sites, resulting in a changing ice composition with time, typically to include an increasing fraction of complex organic molecules. The nature of these snowlines in protoplanetary disks are predicted to have large impacts on planet formation efficiencies, on the bulk compositions of the forming planets, and on the amount of prebiotic material available on planet surfaces. We have used a combination of IR and millimeter observations, theory, and laboratory experiments to characterize interstellar ices, snow line locations (i.e. where these ices are located), and the chemical and planet formation consequences of the exact locations of different snow lines. I will discuss how the outcome of these studies have impacted our understanding of ice formation during star and planet formation, and also future prospects as complete ALMA and the next generation of laboratory experiments come online.