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Published December 2006 | Published
Journal Article Open

The Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems: Placing Our Solar System in Context with Spitzer


We provide an overview of the Spitzer Legacy Program, Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems, that was proposed in 2000, begun in 2001, and executed aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope between 2003 and 2006. This program exploits the sensitivity of Spitzer to carry out mid-infrared spectrophotometric observations of solar-type stars. With a sample of ~328 stars ranging in age from ~3 Myr to ~3 Gyr, we trace the evolution of circumstellar gas and dust from primordial planet-building stages in young circumstellar disks through to older collisionally generated debris disks. When completed, our program will help define the timescales over which terrestrial and gas giant planets are built, constrain the frequency of planetesimal collisions as a function of time, and establish the diversity of mature planetary architectures. In addition to the observational program, we have coordinated a concomitant theoretical effort aimed at understanding the dynamics of circumstellar dust with and without the effects of embedded planets, dust spectral energy distributions, and atomic and molecular gas line emission. Together with the observations, these efforts will provide an astronomical context for understanding whether our solar system—and its habitable planet—is a common or a rare circumstance. Additional information about the FEPS project can be found on the team Web site.

Additional Information

© 2006 The Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Received 2006 May 30; accepted 2006 October 10; published 2006 December 18. We would like to thank our colleagues at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at the Spitzer Science Center, as well as members of the IRAC, IRS, and MIPS instrument teams for their contributions to this work. This work is based in part on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under NASA contract 1407. FEPS is pleased to acknowledge support through NASA contracts 1224768, 1224634, and 1224566 administered through the JPL. M. R. M. is also supported through membership in NASA's Astrobiology Institute. S. W. was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through Emmy Noether grant WO 857/2-1. E. E. M. is supported by a Clay Fellowship from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The MPIA team is supported through the European Planet Formation Network, funded by the European Union.

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August 19, 2023
October 19, 2023