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The Cauldron of Planet Formation: Understanding our Origins with Infrared Spectroscopy
Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - 3:30pm PST
The origins of the elemental carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen that form life can be traced back to a massive reservoir of prestellar ices, which accretes onto planet-forming disks before they take part in the formation of planetesimals and ultimately planetary atmospheres. Their chemical evolution determines the compositions of planets, including those destined to orbit in a habitable zone. Yet the path from the interstellar medium to planets is one fraught with complexity and twists, making multi-wavelength observations critical to constrain theoretical predictions for planetary chemistry. In the past decade, great progress has been made in observing protoplanetary chemistry, not least in measuring the molecular composition in protoplanetary disks. In particular the warm molecular gas and dust in the planet-forming region of young disks (<20 AU) are often probed in the near- to far-infrared. I will tell the current story of planet-forming chemistry, and argue that the James Webb Space Telescope, SOFIA, and future infrared observatories will play a fundamental role in our quest to understand our place in the Universe.