Organic Molecules and Water in the Planet Formation Region of Young Circumstellar Disks

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Science  14 Mar 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5869, pp. 1504-1506
DOI: 10.1126/science.1153807

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The chemical composition of protoplanetary disks is expected to hold clues to the physical and chemical processes that influence the formation of planetary systems. However, characterizing the gas composition in the planet formation region of disks has been a challenge to date. We report here that the protoplanetary disk within 3 astronomical units of AA Tauri possesses a rich molecular emission spectrum in the mid-infrared, indicating a high abundance of simple organic molecules (HCN, C2H2, and CO2), water vapor, and OH. These results suggest that water is abundant throughout the inner disk and that the disk supports an active organic chemistry.

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