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Building Planets - A Journey along 40 Orders of Magnitude

Detail Summary
Date 27 November 2019
Time 11:00 - 12:00
Til Birnstiel
Til Birnstiel (LMU Munich)

Building planets is a dirty business. First of all, planets are made out of the dirt we call interstellar dust. Secondly, the physics involved is not “clean” in a sense that neither the processes involved, nor the initial conditions are known. Solid state physics, radiation transport, gas phase and surface chemistry, magnetic fields and hydrodynamic instabilities at high Reynolds numbers are just some of the aspects that are certainly involved in growing the sub-micrometer sized interstellar dust by 40 orders of magnitude in mass to a full-fledged planet. Given this complexity and dynamic range, it is perhaps not surprising, that the formation processes of planets are still poorly understood, even though thousands of planets beyond our solar system are known today.

Some of the biggest mysteries of planet formation lie in the early stages: growing the asteroid-sized building blocks of planets. Recent years have seen a revolution in observing capabilities delivering data of unprecedented detail and sensitivity. They have partially confirmed our theoretical expectations, partially surprised us. In this lecture, I will discuss some of the basic concepts and the problems we are facing from the theoretical side. I will outline how they might be overcome and will show how recent observational break-throughs revolutionize this exciting field, bringing us closer to solving the puzzle of planet formation.