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Imaging Protoplanetary Disks

Young stars are expected to be surrounded by protoplanetary disks. To date, such stars have only been observed at optical wavelengths in silhouette against bright nebulae using, the Hubble Space Telescope. Their inner regions are optically inaccessible since they are opaque to visible photons.

The VLA 40-50 GHz system, when completed on all antennas and supported by a wide-band data transmission system will have three times the angular resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope and 36 times the sensitivity of the present 40-50 GHz system (a factor of over a thousand improvement in observing time!). The VLA will be the only instrument able to penetrate the inner regions of protoplanetary disks. The disks are optically thick to optical wavelengths, and they cannot be resolved at longer wavelengths. Present estimates suggest that roughly 100 protoplanetary disks with angular extent exceeding tex2html_wrap_inline1042 exist within 200 pc of the Sun with total flux densities of 1 mJy at tex2html_wrap_inline10247mm wavelength. Such a source could be imaged with a signal-to-noise ratio of 10:1 in 12 hrs with the A-configuration.

Technical requirements essentially match those of §3.3.

Michael Rupen
Fri Mar 26 15:30:00 MST 1999