The rare molecule weighing in on the birth of planets

New paper out today: The First Detection of 13C17O in a Protoplanetary Disk: a Robust Tracer of Disk Gas Mass

Official Press Release

Scientific Abstract: Measurements of the gas mass are necessary to determine the planet formation potential of protoplanetary disks. Observations of rare CO isotopologues are typically used to determine disk gas masses; however, if the line emission is optically thick this will result in an underestimated disk mass. With ALMA we have detected the rarest stable CO isotopologue, 13C17O, in a protoplanetary disk for the first time. We compare our observations with the existing detections of 12CO, 13CO, C18O and C17O in the HD163296 disk. Radiative transfer modelling using a previously benchmarked model, and assuming interstellar isotopic abundances, significantly underestimates the integrated intensity of the 13C17O J=3-2 line. Reconciliation between the observations and the model requires a global increase in CO gas mass by a factor of 3.5. This is a factor of 2-6 larger than previous gas mass estimates using C18O. We find that C18O emission is optically thick within the CO snow line, while the 13C17O emission is optically thin and is thus a robust tracer of the bulk disk CO gas mass.

Image: Composite image of the protoplanetary disc around HD 163296.  The inner red regions represent the dust in the disc, thought to shaped into rings by forming planets.  The wider blue region is the carbon monoxide (CO) gas in the disc.  The inner green region shows the rarer 13C17O gas that we have detected for the first time.

[Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); Andrew et al. 2018, A. S. Booth; J. D. Ilee (University of Leeds)]

Poster: From Stars to Planets 2 at Chalmers Gothenburg Summer 2019 



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