Understanding the formation of planets remains one of astronomy’s most rewarding challenges. It is an important part of our quest to understand our own cosmic origins, and it bears directly on the possibility of life on other worlds. Dramatic progress has been made in the opening decades of the 21st century as new technologies have allowed us to detect signals from material very close to forming stars with ever more sensitivity. In this talk I will describe the progress we have made, the new puzzles that have emerged, and how technology coming online over the next decade will provide answers to the puzzles.
Sean Brittain is a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson University. Over the past quarter century, he has used cutting edge tools to study the warm gas around young stars that provides the raw material for forming planets. He earned his PhD in Physics at the University of Notre Dame and then was a Michelson Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, AZ. Thanks to the mentorship and support from colleagues throughout his career he has been lucky enough to contribute to rapidly expanding knowledge of how gas and dust encircling forming stars forms into planets.