Imaging of the CO Snow Line in a Solar Nebula Analog

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Science  18 Jul 2013:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1239560

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Planets form in the disks around young stars. Their formation efficiency and composition are intimately linked to the protoplanetary disk locations of “snow lines” of abundant volatiles. We present chemical imaging of the CO snow line in the disk around TW Hya, an analog of the solar nebula, using high spatial and spectral resolution Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) observations of N2H+, a reactive ion present in large abundance only where CO is frozen out. The N2H+ emission is distributed in a large ring, with an inner radius that matches CO snow line model predictions. The extracted CO snow line radius of ∼ 30 AU helps to assess models of the formation dynamics of the solar system, when combined with measurements of the bulk composition of planets and comets.

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