Professor Stanimir Metchev
Department of Physics and Astronomy
7:30 pm Room 001 ESS Building
Friday, October 31, 2008

From Stars to Planets

The meteoritic and cratering record in our Solar System indicates that planet formation around the young Sun was a turbulent affair, characterized by frequent and catastrophic collisions between the nascent planetesimals. Unfortnately, today's geological evidence only offers an approximate extrapolation of the conditions that existed in that exciting and scientifically important epoch in the life of the Solar System, >4 billion years ago. However, over the past two decades, astronomers have gathered a wealth of new information on other nearby stars that are much younger than the Sun and that appear to be currently undergoing active planet formation and meteoritic bombardment. Such young stars have offered unprecedented views of the early life of the Solar System, and have created a very concrete context for our own existence on Earth. I will overview the scientific methods and evidence on which we base our knowledge of planet formation around other stars, and will draw parallels with the Solar System. I will showcase some of the newest astronomical data from the Keck and the VLT telescopes, and from the Hubble and the Spitzer space telescopes, that have provided support for the current hypotheses on planetary system evolution. Finally, I will use recent observations to offer a glimpse into the final evolutionary stages of a planetary system, following the death of its host star.

Stanimir Metchev recently joined the faculty at Stony Brook as an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Prior to that, he received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 2005, and spent three years as a postdoctoral research fellow at UCLA. His scientific interests lie in the fields of the formation an evolution of extrasolar planetary systems and of very low-mass brown dwarfs.