Vol 10, No 5 (2010) / Krivov

Debris Disks: Seeing Dust, Thinking of Planetesimals and Planets

Alexander V. Krivov


Debris disks are optically thin, almost gas-free dusty disks observed around a significant fraction of main-sequence stars older than about 10 Myr. Since the circumstellar dust is short-lived, the very existence of these disks is considered as evidence that dust-producing planetesimals are still present in mature systems, in which planets have formed - or failed to form - a long time ago. It is inferred that these planetesimals orbit their host stars at asteroid to Kuiper-belt distances and continually supply fresh dust through mutual collisions. This review outlines observational techniques and results on debris disks, summarizes their essential physics and theoretical models, and then places them into the general context of planetary systems, uncovering interrelations between the disks, dust parent bodies, and planets. It is shown that debris disks can serve as tracers of planetesimals and planets and shed light on the planetesimal and planet formation processes that operated in these systems in the past.


planetary systems: formation —circumstellar matter

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