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Published May 8, 2019 | Submitted
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The need for a far-infrared cold space telescope to understand the chemistry of planet formation


At a time when ALMA produces spectacular high resolution images of gas and dust in circumstellar disks, the next observational frontier in our understanding of planet formation and the chemistry of planet-forming material may be found in the mid- to far-infrared wavelength range. A large, actively cooled far-infrared telescope in space will offer enormous spectroscopic sensitivity improvements of 3-4 orders of magnitude, making it possible to uniquely survey certain fundamental properties of planet formation. Specifically, the Origins Space Telescope (OST), a NASA flagship concept to be submitted to the 2020 decadal survey, will provide a platform that allows complete surveys of warm and cold water around young stars of all masses and across all evolutionary stages, and to measure their total planet-forming gas mass using the ground-state line of HD. While this white paper is formulated in the context of the NASA Origins Space Telescope concept, it can be applied in general to inform any future space-based, cold far-infrared observatory.

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August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023