Steward Observatory/NSF's OIR Lab Joint Colloquium- New Views of Debris Disks
Dr. David Wilner, Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian
Abstract: Many nearby stars are surrounded by detectable disks of dusty material that result from the collisional erosion of planetesimals, relics of the planet formation process. Since these dust-producing planetesimals persist only in stable regions like belts and resonances, the locations and physical properties of the "debris" they generate provide probes of planetary system architectures and dynamical evolution. Observations in the millimeter offer a unique window, as the large grains that dominate emission at these long wavelengths are not much affected by stellar radiation and winds and therefore share the dynamics of the planetesimals. I will present recent results on nearby debris disks that take advantage of the unprecedented sensitivity and resolution now available with ALMA. In particular, I will discuss morphological features that may relate to unseen planets, and the surprising detections of molecular emission that expose exocomet composition.