Evidence for the start of planet formation in a young circumstellar disk
Introductory text in journal, 2018
© 2018, The Author(s). The growth of dust grains in protoplanetary disks is a necessary first step towards planet formation1. This growth has been inferred from observations of thermal dust emission2towards mature protoplanetary systems (age >2 million years) with masses that are, on average, similar to Neptune3. In contrast, the majority of confirmed exoplanets are heavier than Neptune4. Given that young protoplanetary disks are more massive than their mature counterparts, this suggests that planet formation starts early, but evidence for grain growth that is spatially and temporally coincident with a massive reservoir in young disks remains scarce. Here, we report observations on a lack of emission of carbon monoxide isotopologues within the inner ~15 au of a very young (age ~100,000 years) disk around the solar-type protostar TMC1A. By using the absence of spatially resolved molecular line emission to infer the gas and dust content of the disk, we conclude that shielding by millimetre-size grains is responsible for the lack of emission. This suggests that grain growth and millimetre-size dust grains can be spatially and temporally coincident with a mass reservoir sufficient for giant planet formation. Hence, planet formation starts during the earliest, embedded phases in the life of young stars.