Disk Evolution with SPICA




The wavelength range of SPICA provides unique access to a large series of gas cooling lines from disks such as HD, H2, CO and water, to the far-IR water ice features and to a series of key dust features tracing the detailed mineralogy of refractory material.

SPICA will study the mass evolution of the warm gas reservoir during the epoch of planet formation using the unique diagnostic lines of HD and OI in large statistical samples. SPICA’s highest spectral resolution modes will be used to quantify gas disk dispersal processes such as jets, winds and to link this to various disk geometries/structures such as gaps, holes and prominent asymmetries as inventorized by then through ALMA, scattered light imaging and JWST. SPICA will characterize at even later stages of debris disks the composition of the trace amount of gas and link it to its physical origin - left over primordial gas versus comets/asteroids.

Star formation and planet evolution

SPICA will establish how water - a key element for planet formation, and for the emergence of life - is brought to planets like our own. By observing a wide range of water lines, it will trace the transition from the gaseous to the icy phase – the so-called snow-line. The 40 and 60 μm thermal water ice emission features provide crucial insight into the role and processing of water ice during the planet formation process (crystalline versus amorphous). Given SPICA’s excellent sensitivity such studies can be done for statistically significant samples of objects, and as a results we will transition from discussing single cases to establishing the general trends from planet forming systems and putting this of disk sub-structure as revealed by ALMA. 

Dust in planetesimals

Through broad band far-infrared spectroscopy, mineralogy beyond small micron-sized silicates becomes possible, and we can study the matter of which planets are eventually formed. SPICA will follow the evolution of mineralogy from pristine phases in protoplanetary disks all the way to debris disks and link this to the composition of asteroids in our own Solar System.



Photoevaporation is a crucial process setting the lifetime of primordial gas in protoplanetary discs. Winds set the clock for planet formation and impact the architecture of planetary systems. SPICA’s SMI/HR, with its unique high spectral resolution access to atomic and molecular wind tracers like [Ne II], [Fe II], H2 and HD, can measure the dissipation and photoevaporation of the gas.

SMI high resolution observations of a disk wind Line profile for an X-ray illuminated photoevaporative wind seen at different inclination angles (from Ercolano & Owen 2010), using the SMI/HR resolution R=28000.



Setting the clock for planet formation

  • High sensitivity and resolution of SMI/HR allow for determination of accretion and disk winds from proto-planetary disks and set the lifetime of primordial gas in the disk.

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