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Merel van ‘t Hoff

Merel van ‘t Hoff is our Leiden Observatory's nominee for the C.J. Kok Jury Award 2019.

‘We are now finally able to unravel the composition of planetary building blocks. This brings us one step closer to understanding the formation of our own Earth and the origins of life.’

About Merel's research

To address the fundamental questions of how life on Earth emerged and how common life may be in the Universe, it is crucial to know the chemical composition of planet-forming material. Planets were originally thought to form in protoplanetary disks, but studies of both disks and our solar system show that planet formation already starts much earlier, in disks that are still embedded in cloud material. These young disks, however, are largely uncharacterised. This thesis presents a number of case studies on the physical and chemical structure of young disks, including the first temperature measurements, showing that young disks are too warm for carbon monoxide ice, unlike protoplanetary disks. In addition, it is shown that young disks around outbursting stars are the ideal sources to probe the chemical complexity in planet-forming material.

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