2003 Annual Science Report
University of Colorado, Boulder Reporting | JUL 2002 – JUN 2003
The Formation of Planets Around Young Stars
I used the Keck Observatory 10 meter telescopes to study young stars in the Orion nebula during two separate runs (in collaboration with M. Morris and R. Shuping at UCLA). In November 2002, we used Adaptive Optics (AO) and a near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSPEC) to obtain new images an spectra of low-mass protostars and their disks in the immediate vicinity of the massive stars in Orion. We measured the disk mass-loss rates, discovered new jets, and produced images as sharp as those generated by the Hubble Space Telescope. In December, we used the 10-20 micrometer wavelength camera to obtain images of the still highly embedded young stars forming in the cloud core know as OMC1 lying immediately behind the Orion Nebula.
In March, we completed a deep narrow-band imaging survey (covering nearly 10 square degrees of sky) of the Carina Nebula, a region 100 times as hostile as Orion to the survival of circumstellar proto-planetary disks. Nevertheless, we found evidence for such disks. Indeed, the Carina nebula appears host to the largest population of such “proplyds” outside the Orion Nebula.
We continue to analyze velocity-resolved Farby-Perot data cubes of the Orion nebula in our continuing investigation of the impact of clustering and radiation fields on the survival of proto-planetary disks in the type of environment in which most stars in the sky form.
I served as the curator for several astrobiology-related exhibits at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science which was opening in June 2003 as part of the museum’s “Space Odyssey” exhibit. My work includes providing scientific oversight of the new Europa planetarium show slated to open in late 2003.
I taught the “Extra-terrestrial Life” course during the Spring 2003 semester. This is our flagship Astrobiology Course for undergraduates.