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E. D. Feigelson (PSU)
Planets form in cold circumstellar disks that can not emit X-rays. Nonetheless, X-ray band studies may have profound implications for the physical processes of planet formation in several ways. Observations of young stellar clusters, such as the recent Chandra Orion Ultradeep Project (COUP), demonstrate that all pre-main sequence stars produce powerful magnetic reconnection flares during the planet formation era. Calculations indicate that the X-rays can penetrate deeply into protoplanetary disks and will be the dominant source of gas ionization. COUP observations of fluorescent line emission in heavy disk stars and soft X-ray absorption in proplyds demonstrate that disk irradiation by X-rays does in fact occur. This may induce MHD turbulence in disk gases, which may substantially affect planetesimal growth and protoplanet migration. X-ray flares or associated shock waves may flash melt dustballs into chondrules, and spallation by energetic flare particles may generate shortlived radioactive isotopes which are prevalent in the meteoritic record. X-ray surveys are also useful for locating older stellar systems where the protoplanetary disk is dissipating but magnetic flaring continues. Infrared studies of such systems show a great diversity of older disk properties.
The planned Constellation-X mission will propel all of these investigations in powerful ways. For example, reverberation mapping of fluorescent line emission following flares could give unique insights into the structure of the gaseous components of protoplanetary disks.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.