Research

Chemical substructures in protoplanetary disks

A gallery of chemical substructures in the five protoplanetary disks surveyed by the MAPS LP.
Radial substructures from the MAPS LP (Law+21b, c)

Protoplanetary disks provide the raw materials for forming planets. Disk observations can provide crucial constraints on the formation locations of planets and the processes by which initial gas and dust distributions evolve into planetary systems. Disks are highly structured in both their radial and vertical gas distributions and high spatial resolution observations are necessary to not only identify and catalogue the frequency of such substructures but also to relate them to the distribution of dust as well as their influence of nascent planets. Such observations are also required to reveal the inner planet forming zones of these disks (<50 au) in order to uncover the chemical environments in which planets are assembled.


Chemical composition of embedded, Solar-like protostars

Spectrum toward the low-mass protostar B1-a with molecular emission lines from carbon chain molecules labeled.
Carbon chains in the low-mass protostar B1-a (Law+18)

Carbon chain molecules constitute an important reservoir of reactive organic material in interstellar clouds and in at least some protostellar envelopes. These molecules may eventually be incorporated into protoplanetary disks and then later into planetesimals and planets, seeding incipient planets with complex organic material. Carbon chains are thus expected to be abundant throughout star formation and potentially during planet formation as well. Observational surveys of these molecules around Solar-type protostars allow us to establish the distribution and abundance of carbon chains around ‘typical’ protostars, and answer numerous oustanding questions, such as the origins and nature of warm carbon chain chemistry (WCCC).





Spatially-resolved chemistry in massive young stellar objects

Rotational temperature and column density maps of the high-mass star-forming region G10.6-0.4, which illustrate its complex physical and chemical structure.
Complex organic molecules in massive star-forming region G10.6 (Law+21a)

The elevated temperatures and densities generated from collapsing material results in a high degree of chemical complexity toward massive young stellar objects (MYSOs). However, the complex chemical and physical processes driving these regions are not fully understood, despite decades of observational and modeling efforts, which is in part due to limitations in observations of complex chemisty at sufficiently high spatial resolutions. Such observations, which directly resolve the spatial differences between the emission of distinct species allow us to unambiguously discern the regions traced by different molecular species and families of molecules, providing further insight into their formation processes and chemistry. As a result, they are crucial for constraining a variety of outstanding questions related to the chemical evolution of MYSOs, including but ceratinly not limited to: How frequently and in what way are hot cores associated with MYSOs? What processes and evolutionary stages are responsible for COM production in massive star-forming regions? Are there several distinct COM chemistries that can be used to trace different aspects of star formation? Are O- and N-bearing COMs systematically spatially offset from one another?

Kinematics, morphology, and ISM/CSM environment of SNRs

Several views of a 3D kinematic reconstruction of the O-rich supernova remnant N132D, which show a torus-like ejecta distribution.
3D reconstruction of SNR N132D (Law+20)

Young, nearby supernova remnants (SNRs) offer rare opportunities to investigate kinematic and chemical details of supernova (SN) explosions at fine scales that are impossible to achieve in unresolved extragalactic events. Their morphology and elemental distribution provide unique insight into where and how asymmetry is introduced during core collapse, which is presently a key area of investigation in increasingly sophisticated 2D and 3D simulations. Expanding stellar ejecta that encode valuable information about the explosion dynamics, nucleosynthetic yields, and mixing of the progenitor star can be resolved, measured, and tracked. The progenitor star system’s transitions through evolutionary stages leading up to core collapse and associated mass loss can also be explored by studying the SNR’s interaction with its surrounding environment.