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Icy origins: snowlines during star and planet formation

Colloquium: Astronomy Colloquia | October 24 | 4:10 p.m. | 2 LeConte Hall


Karin Oberg, Harvard

Department of Astronomy


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 use a combination of IR and millimeter observations, theory, and laboratory experiments to characterize ice formation, evolution and destruction at different stages of star and planet formation. I will discuss how these studies have impacted our understanding of the role of ices in the interstellar medium, and some future prospects as complete ALMA and the next generation of laboratory ice experiments come online.


rhelgens@astro.berkeley.edu, 510-642-5275