AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 98. Next Generation Space Telescope Town Meeting
Special, Oral, Thursday, June 3, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, International Ballroom North

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[98.04] Searching for Origins in Protostars & Planets: Star Formation Research with the NGST

M.R. Meyer (Steward Obs.)

Over the past decade, astronomers have made tremendous progress in understanding the processes that lead to star and planet formation. Detection of protostellar objects in the far-IR/sub-mm, direct images of circumstellar disks with HST, identification of bona fide brown dwarf objects, and the success of doppler surveys for extra-solar giant planets top the list of amazing discoveries. However several fundamental questions remain unaswered: What physical mechanisms are responsible for determining stellar masses in collapsing cloud cores? When, where, and how frequently do planets form around young stars? What controls the star formation efficiency in the interstellar medium?

The Next Generation Space Telescope will be a powerful instrument for studying star and planet formation. We (the NGST Star and Planet Formation Study Group) have been investigating a variety of programs that would take unique advantage of the capabilities offered by a large-aperture, infrared-optimized, space-based telescope in a low-background orbit. Our investigations have focussed on three main themes: i) the physics of collapse and the initial stages of star formation; ii) the evolution of circumstellar disks and planet formation; and iii) the energetics and evolution of the interstellar medium. We will outline these programs and indicate how the science goals impact the prioritization of instrument capabilities. In addition to the core mission requirements of imaging and low-resolution spectroscopy from 1-5 \mum, we argue strongly for extension of the wavelength coverage into the mid-IR.

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