Investigating the Gas Chemistry of Protoplanetary Disks
Student: Alberto Mata
University of Texas at Brownsville
Degree Level: Bachelor of Science
Internship Site: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Mentor: Dr. Avi Mandell
Abstract: Using Interactive Data Language (IDL), an established data visualization software, I analyze infrared spectroscopic observations of protoplanetary disks. The observations are taken with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Atacama Desert of Chile using the Cryogenic Infrared Echelle Spectrograph (CRIRES). Observing protoplanetary disks, or the gas and dust around early stars, gives us us insight as to what material surrounds early stars, and since planets form in the protoplanetary disk of the star, investigating the chemical composition of protoplanetary disks allows us to probe the material that will eventually make up the planets around a certain star. Planets whose origins and compositions we would like to better understand include the recent discoveries of “super-Earths.” Observing these super-Earths gives us minimal information as to what they are composed of, but observing protoplanetary disks can help us better understand the origins of the atmospheres and interiors of these planets.
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