AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 25. A Preview of the SIRTF Legacy Science Program
Special Session Oral, Monday, June 4, 2001, 2:00-3:30pm, C101-104

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[25.06] The Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems: Placing Our Solar System in Context with SIRTF

M.R. Meyer (Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona), Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems SIRTF Legacy Science Team

We propose to trace the evolution of planetary systems at all ages ranging from: (1) 3-10 Myr when stellar accretion from the disk terminates; to (2) 10-100 Myr when planets achieve their final masses via coalescence of solids and accretion of remnant molecular gas; to (3) 100-1000 Myr when the final architecture of solar systems takes form and frequent collisions between remnant planetesimals produce copious quantities of dust; and finally to (4) mature systems of age comparable to the Sun in which planet-driven activity of planetesimals continues to generate detectable dust. Our strategy is to use carefully calibrated spectral energy distributions and high-resolution spectra to infer the radial distribution of dust and the molecular hydrogen content of disks surrounding a sample of 300 solar-like stars distributed uniformly in log-age over 3 Myr to 3 Gyr.

The high precision and fine sampling of SIRTF spectral energy distributions can reveal both the existence of planets and their approximate masses and radial distributions through modeling of the dynamical effects of planets in sculpting planetesimal distributions and orchestrating their collision frequency. The size of our target list will enable us to characterize the diversity of planetary system architectures, providing a deeper appreciation of the range of possible outcomes of the planet formation process - thus placing our own solar system in context.

Our proposed Legacy program promises to provide: (1) new insight into problems of fundamental scientific and philosophical interest; (2) calibration with precision 2-3 times that of standard SIRTF data products, to the benefit of all SIRTF observers; (3) new numerical tools for simulating the dynamical history of forming solar systems; and (4) a rich database to stimulate follow-up observations with SIRTF, with existing and future ground-based facilities, and later with SIM, NGST, and TPF.

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