Planet Formation and Evolution Research at STScI

Studying star and planet formation, circumstellar disks, and planetary system evolution and architecture.

Star and Planet Formation

Using dynamical and chemical models and multi-wavelength, ground-based, and space-based observations, STScI researchers have characterized the evolution of the physical and chemical properties of star and planet formation environments in single and multi-stellar systems. From stellar mass accretion and stellar jets and outflows, to the evolution of gas and dust in protoplanetary and transitional disks, these studies can shed light on the conditions for planet formation. Also of interest are the planet-disk interactions, triggering planet migration and affecting the dynamical evolution of the young planetary systems.

Debris Disks

STScI researchers have used a wide range of models and multi-wavelength, ground-based, and space-based observations to characterize the physical and chemical properties of debris disks, including their evolution and spatial structure, and the planet-disk interactions. These studies, focused on detailed analyses of individual systems and statistical studies of large debris disk samples, can shed light on the planetesimal population that is responsible for the debris dust, helping constrain planetesimal and planet formation models and shedding light on the architecture of the extrasolar planetary systems.

Evolved Planetary Systems

The characterization of the planetesimal population around evolved stars has also been focus of investigation, via the study of the infrared excesses in white dwarfs and the study of the signatures of orbiting dust and gas revealed by transient or varying absorption features. These studies have also allowed the characterization of the elemental abundance of the disrupted, dust-producing planetesimals, shedding light on the bulk composition of the rocky exoplanets.

Star and Planet Formation (SPF) Group at STScI

SPF is a group of STScI researchers that studies circumstellar gas and disk chemistry, accretion processes in protostellar disks and envelopes, the evolution of protostellar systems, episodic accretion, jets and outflows, and the interaction with molecular clouds, and star forming region populations.

Extrasolar Planetary Systems Imaging Group

The Extrasolar Planetary System Imaging Group is a group of staff, postdocs, and students at STScI, JHU, and other institutions that work collectively to image planetary systems and circumstellar disks.

The STScI Exoplanets, Star and Planet Formation Seminar Series

Weekly seminar series at STScI featuring visiting researchers on topics related to exoplanets, star and planet formation.

Planets, Life, and the Universe Lecture Series

The Planets, Life, and the Universe lecture series brings high-profile speakers to the JHU/STScI campus to discuss current topics of interest in astrobiology and draws a large and steadily increasing audience. The lectures are presented live online and are also available for viewing on the website afterwards.

Archival Legacy Investigations of Circumstellar Environments (ALICE)

The HST NICMOS coronagraphic archive is a valuable database for exoplanets and disks studies containing observations of about 400 targets that were obtained as part of surveys looking for substellar companions or resolved circumstellar disks to young nearby stars. The ALICE program is an HST Legacy program that has reevaluated the NICMOS coronagraphic archive with improved detection limits, achieved with modern post-processing methods. The ALICE team has published high-level science products of NICMOS coronagraphic datasets, reprocessed as part of the ALICE project, that are available through MAST. These data can help at identifying the nature of companion candidates detected by other instruments, and at refining planet or disk population statistics by combining NICMOS data with other surveys.

Citizen Science Project: Disk Detective

STScI staff are critical contributors to the Disk Detective Citizen Science Project, the first NASA led and funded Zooniverse project that has the goal of identifying protoplanetary and debris disks in the NASA's WISE mission data.