Protoplanetary disks and planet formation observations and modeling

1. We will study the process of dust growth from mm-cm size grains to planetesimals in the earliest phases of disc evolution through agglomeration in local density maxima (dust traps) produced by gravitational instabilities. This process, investigated in the past by us (Rice et al 2004, 2006), will now be investigated at much higher resolution and using a much improved dust drag algorithm. This will allow us to predict the observable characteristics of dust traps, which are essential to define the SKA Key Project on dust evolution. ( OAMI | UniMilano)

2. We will study the generation of dust in late discs through detailed numerical simulations of the collisional cascade triggered by forming giant planets coupled with simulations of the subsequent dynamical evolution of the dust in the discs. We plan to use the data available on known planet-hosting circumstellar discs to calibrate the results of our theoretical models. The results will then be confronted with the observational capabilities of SKA to understand to what extent such process can be studied as part of the Key Program on dust evolution. ( IAPS | OAPD | UniPd)

3. Expand the detailed study of individual systems, to derive a consistent and robust scenario for these very early phases of formation of substellar companions from circumstellar disks and prepare dedicated SKA campaigns, and obtain statistically significant samples that can be used in comparisons with models of planet formation. To this purpose, we intend to fully exploit the complementarity existing between NIR (SPHERE and NACO at VLT, LMIRCAM and SHARK at LBT, JWST, with E-ELT in perspective) and sub-mm and radio observations (mainly ALMA/VLA in the near future, with SKA in perspective). The observational studies will be complemented by and compared with detailed hydro dynamical models. These activities will be critical to define the scope and goals of the SKA Key Program ( OAA | OAMi | UniMi | OANA | OAR | OAPD | UniPd | OAR)

4. Complete the spectroscopic characterization of the samples to be included in the SKA Key Program, based on the analysis of the full samples of XShooter data that we have and are acquiring for young stellar populations in star forming regions. This analysis will provide information on the stellar and accretion properties of the sample, as well as on the properties of the winds and jets through forbidden line emission. X-shooter observations will be complemented with VLT-CRIRES and JWST follow up for a better characterisation of the gaseous content in the inner disks. ( OAA | OANA | OAR).

5. Completing the analysis of the ALMA and VLA preparatory surveys for dust evolution in disks and define the exact parameters of the SKA Key Program for dust evolution. We are in the process of combining data from ALMA and the VLA to analyse the time variability of the Ophiuchus cloud core, an essential activity for a competitive SKA Key Program. (OAA)

Volatiles evolution: complex organics as the building blocks of life

6. On going observing projects with NOEMA and ALMA will allow us to obtain a reliable identification of COMs in a large sample of proto-stellar systems and thus define the best candidates for future SKA campaigns, prioritising the search for glycine. VLA preparatory campaigns to define the COMs’ census of protoplanetary systems in the cm-range will be prepared. This part will be led by the OAA node: an AR will be recruited to manage the large amount of data collected. The major goal is to identify the best protostellar systems for the future SKA campaigns. (OAA)

7. We will closely work with the chemical DREAMSLab Center of the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, the Chemistry Departments of the Bologna and Perugia Universities to fully exploit the information coming from the SOLIS (sub-)mm-observations. We will provide quantum mechanical computations to propose reaction paths combined to plausible COMs formation mechanisms. We will verify whether neutral–neutral gas-phase reactions can account for the COMs formation. The goal is to identify species, which are precursors of COMs and that can be observed with SKA. (OAA)

8. The data exploitation of SOLIS-NOEMA and ALMA in the (sub)mm spectral windows will allow us to carefully estimate the COMs’ abundances (using sophisticated radiative transfer analysis) of all the ingredients of the Sun-like star formation recipe: protoplanetary disks and protostellar (accretion-) shocks. To derive the abundances of prebiotic molecules in protoplanetary disks we will also measure the condensation fronts (the so-called snowlines). In particular the OAA-AR will obtain reliable prediction of line brightness of COMs species in the SKA window. Particular care will be dedicated to chiral molecules (species not superimposable on their mirror images, such as CH 3 CHCH 2 O), on which life on Earth relies. (OAA)

Laboratory Astrophysics

Laboratory studies will be aimed at investigating the formation and the preservation of COMs in different astrophysical environments. Outcomes of these experimental works will contribute to the interpretation of the observational data and will feed the theoretical models with molecular parameters (e.g. production and destruction cross sections). More in detail the experiments will investigate:

9. the synthesis of complex organic molecules in astrophysical ice analogs undergoing energetic ion bombardment (200-400 keV, OACT) as well as UV and X-ray irradiation with silicate substrate as analogues of dust grains (OAPA);

10. the synthesis and degradation of prebiotic molecules driven by UV photo-chemical processing of carbon-based molecules interacting with mineral surfaces at high (500 K) and cryogenic (20 K) temperatures (OAA);

11. the formation of complex molecules after atom irradiation and/or UV photolysis of carbonaceous dust grain analogs ( OANA).

Communication, Public and Industrial Outreach Activities

The main scientific aspects of this project are especially well suited for outreach, being related to the fundamental question of broad interest: How did life emerge? In synergy with the central INAF communication office as well as with the SKA Organisation we will promote the INAF image focusing on its leading role on the SKA-related activities on the Origins of Life. We have identified the following main objectives:

12. We will build an easy-to-use web platform to internally share produced outreach material and visual identity products (e.g. logos, templates etc.), press releases. This platform will allow a cohesive communication within the group that will significantly benefit to our dissemination activities.

13. we will build a Public Web Platform from where all the scientific advances from the project will be easily accessible by the public and schools. This content will be tailored to different knowledge levels and will serve as a basis for public talks across Italy and for the design of a modular fair stand to use during international conferences on science dissemination and educational festivals (e.g. CAP, PCST).

14. The current project also offers an excellent opportunity for the strengthening of the current relationships between INAF and those industries already involved or potentially interested in SKA. We will propose to organise together with other SKA and CTA funded programs an Innovation Day, i.e. a national workshop for Industries interested in being involved in the developing technological projects.