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Andrea Isella
Assistant Professor
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
 
e-mail:isella@rice.edu
 
  • Ph.D. Physics, Astrophysics, and Applied Physics (2006) Universita' degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
  • B.S. Astronomy (2003) Universita' degli Studi di Padova, Padova, Italy
 
Primary Department
   Department of Physics and Astronomy
Picture
 
Department Affiliations
 
  • Department of Earth, Environmental & Planetary Sciences
  • Department of Physics and Astronomy
  •  
    Websites
     planetformation.rice.edu
     
    Research Areas
     Galactic Astronomy and Astrophysics
     
    Research Interests 30-JAN-2019
     

    Understanding how planets form has been a fundamental question for scientists since the beginning of modern Astronomy. Observations of the Solar System and of nearby star forming regions have provided circumstantial evidence that planets form in protoplanetary disks -- disks made of gas and dust surrounding newborn stars. The discovery of hundreds of planetary systems with diverse characteristics suggests that the formation of planets is likely controlled by different processes, and that such processes might be very sensitive to the physical conditions of planetary nurseries.  However, the paucity of knowledge about protoplanetary disks, and the lack of direct observations of planets in the act of forming has severely limited, until recently, our capability to investigate how planets are assembled.


    My research aims at  (i) investigating the initial conditions for planet formation, (ii) understanding how dust particles interact to form km-sized planetary embryos,  and (iii) revealing how newborn planets evolve by interacting with the parental protoplanetary disk. These goals are achieved by exploiting the unprecedented imaging capabilities of recently constructed infrared and millimeter-wave telescopes, which allow direct measurements of the spatial distribution, composition, temperature, and kinematics of the circumstellar material on spatial scales as small as 1 astronomical unit (au).    


     Over the course of my career, I have contributed to developing long-baseline interferometric techniques at both infrared and millimeter wavelengths, which enable us to achieve angular resolutions 10 times higher than those delivered by classical telescopes. Using this observing technique, I and my collaborators have discovered  that the mass and radial distribution of dust and gas around young stars vary significantly from object to object. We argued that, on one side, such diversity reflects the different morphologies of even younger protostellar systems, and, on the other, it might explain the range of architectures of known exoplanetary systems (Isella et al. 2009). To understand the initial conditions for the assembly of planetary embryos, I have developed a methodology that employs multi-wavelength observations to measure the size of dust particles as a function of the distance from the central star (Isella et al. 2010). The application of this technique to interferometric data enabled us to discover that the disk regions close to the central star are populated by dust particles as large as  a few centimeters (pebbles), which are thought to be the seeds from which planetary embryos form (Pérez et al. 2012, 2015, Tazzari et al. 2016). The most important result obtain so far is perhaps the discovery of small scale structures in protoplanetary disks (e.g., Isella et al. 2016, 2018). These structures are expected to originate from the gravitational interaction between the circumstellar material and yet unseen planets, and therefore provide a snapshot of planetary systems in the act of forming.


    Last but not least, a substantial part of my research activities are devoted to developing science cases for the next generation of telescopes aimed at studying planet formation in even grater details than those accessible by ALMA. During the last two years, I have been advocating for the construction of a radio telescopes operating at millimeter and centimeter wavelengths capable of mapping the formation of terrestrial planets (Isella et al. 2015). This idea has been adopted as main science driver for the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA, see Carilli et al. 2015), which is a US based effort to increase by at least one order of magnitude  the angular resolution and sensitivity of the Very Large Array located in New Mexico and operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Since October 2017, I have been serving as co-chair of the NRAO appointed ngVLA Science Advisory Committee (SAC), which includes international recognized experts in a variety of astronomical topics including observational cosmology, galaxy formation and evolution, star and planet formation, solar physics, and planetary science. The activities of the ngVLA SAC are aimed at developing key scientific astronomical questions to be addressed by the future generation of radio telescopes and have resulted in a science book (“Science with a Next-Generation Very Large Array”) published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

     
    Teaching Areas
     Galactic and Extragalactic astronomy courses for undergraduate and graduate students
     
    Selected Publications
     Abstracts
     

    Barenfeld, Scott A; Carpenter, John M; Sargent, Anneila I; Ricci, Luca; Isella, Andrea; "The End of Protoplanetary Disk Evolution: An ALMA Survey of Upper Scorpius." American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, 229 (2017)

     
     

    Barenfeld, Scott A; Carpenter, John M; Sargent, Anneila I; Ricci, Luca; Isella, Andrea; "The End of Protoplanetary Disk Evolution: An ALMA Survey of Upper Scorpius." American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, 229 (2017)

     
     

    Isella, Andrea; Hull, Charles LH; Moullet, Arielle; "Next Generation Very Large Array: The Cradle of Life." American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, 229 (2017)

     
     

    Isella, Andrea; Hull, Charles LH; Moullet, Arielle; "Next Generation Very Large Array: The Cradle of Life." American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, 229 (2017)

     
     

    Ling, Jason; Isella, Andrea; Johns-Krull, Christopher; "Searching for Radio Emission from Young Stars and Exoplanets with the VLA Low-Frequency Sky Survey Redux." AASTCS5 Radio Exploration of Planetary Habitability, Proceedings of the conference 7-12 May, 2017 in Palm Springs, CA. Published in Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol. 49, No. 3, id. 202.02, 49 (2017)

     
     

    Ling, Jason; Isella, Andrea; Johns-Krull, Christopher; "Searching for Radio Emission from Young Stars and Exoplanets with the VLA Low-Frequency Sky Survey Redux." AASTCS5 Radio Exploration of Planetary Habitability, Proceedings of the conference 7-12 May, 2017 in Palm Springs, CA. Published in Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol. 49, No. 3, id. 202.02, 49 (2017)

     
     Refereed articles
     

    Barenfeld, Scott A; Carpenter, John M; Sargent, Anneila I; Isella, Andrea; Ricci, Luca; "Measurement of Circumstellar Disk Sizes in the Upper Scorpius OB Association with ALMA." The Astrophysical Journal, 851 (2017) : 85.

     
     

    Barenfeld, Scott A; Carpenter, John M; Sargent, Anneila I; Isella, Andrea; Ricci, Luca; "Measurement of Circumstellar Disk Sizes in the Upper Scorpius OB Association with ALMA." The Astrophysical Journal, 851 (2017) : 85.

     
     

    Boehler, Y; Ricci, L; Weaver, E; Isella, A; Benisty, M; Carpenter, J; Grady, C; Shen, Bo-Ting; Tang, Ya-Wen; Perez, L; "The complex morphology of the young disk MWC 758: Spirals and dust clumps around a large cavity." arXiv preprint arXiv:1712.08845 (2017)

     
     

    Boehler, Y; Ricci, L; Weaver, E; Isella, A; Benisty, M; Carpenter, J; Grady, C; Shen, Bo-Ting; Tang, Ya-Wen; Perez, L; "The complex morphology of the young disk MWC 758: Spirals and dust clumps around a large cavity." arXiv preprint arXiv:1712.08845 (2017)

     
     

    Boehler, Y; Weaver, E; Isella, A; Ricci, L; Grady, C; Carpenter, J; Perez, L; "A Close-up View of the Young Circumbinary Disk HD 142527." The Astrophysical Journal, 840 (2017) : 60.

     
     

    Lazareff, B; Berger, J-P; Kluska, J; Le Bouquin, J-B; Benisty, M; Malbet, F; Koen, C; Pinte, C; Thi, W-F; Absil, Olivier; "Structure of Herbig AeBe disks at the milliarcsecond scale-A statistical survey in the H band using PIONIER-VLTI." Astronomy & Astrophysics, 599 (2017) : A85.

     
     

    Zhu, Zhaohuan; Andrews, Sean M; Isella, Andrea; "On the Radio Detectability of Circumplanetary Discs." arXiv preprint arXiv:1708.07287 (2017)

     
     

    L. Ricci, J. M. Carpenter, B. Fu, A. M . Hughes, S. Corder, A. Isella "ALMA observations of the debris disk around the young solar analog HD 107146." Astrophysical Journal

     
     

    M. Benisty, M., A. Juhasz, A. Boccaletti, H. Avenhaus, J. Milli, C. Thalmann, C. Dominik, P. Pinilla, E. Buenzli, A. Pohl, J.-L. Beuzit, T. Birnstiel, J. de Boer, M.  5 Bonnefoy, G. Chauvin, V. Christiaens, A. Garufi, C. Grady, T. Henning, N. Huelamo, A. Isella, M. Langlois, F. Ménard, D. Mouillet, J. Olofsson, E. Pantin, C. Pinte, L. Pueyo "“Asymmetric features in the protoplanetary disk MWC 758." Astronomy & Astrophysics

     
     

    N. van der Marel, E. van Dishoeck, S. Bruderer, L. M. Pérez, A. Isella "Gas density drops inside dust cavities of transitional disks around young stars observed with ALMA." Astrophysical Journal

     
     

    Pinilla, P.; de Boer, J.; Benisty, M.; Juhász, A.; de Juan Ovelar, M.; Dominik, C.; Avenhaus, H.; Birnstiel, T.; Girard, J. H.; Huelamo, N.; A. Isella, Milli, J., "Variability and dust filtration in the transition disk J160421.7-213028 observed in optical scattered light." Astronomy & Astrophysics

     
     

    Pérez, Laura M.; Chandler, Claire J.; A. Isella; Carpenter, John M.; Andrews, Sean M.; Calvet, Nuria; Corder, Stuartt A.; Deller, Adam T.; Dullemond, Cornelis P.; Greaves, Jane S.; Harris, Robert J.; Henning, Thomas; Kwon, Woojin; Lazio, Joseph; Linz, Hendrik; Mundy, Lee G.; Ricci, Luca; Sargent, Anneila I.; Storm, Shaye; Tazzari, Marco; Testi, Leonardo; Wilner, David J., "“Grain Growth in the Circumstellar Disks of the Young Stars CY Tau and DoAr 25." Astrophysical Journal

     
     

    A. Isella, C. J. Chandler, J. M. Carpenter, L. M. Perez, L. Ricci "Searching for Circumplanetary Disks around LkCa 15." 

     
     

    J. M. Carpenter, L. Ricci, A. Isella "An ALMA Continuum Survey of Circumstellar Disks in the Upper Scorpius OB Association." 

     
     

    J. Menu, R. van Boekel, Th. Henning, C. J. Chandler, H . Linz, M. Benisty, S. Lacour, M. Mid, C. Waelkens, S. M. Andrews, N Calvet, J. M. Carpenter, S. A. Corder, A. T. Deller, J. S. Graves, R. J. Harrins, A. Isella, W. Kwon, J. Lazio, J.-B. Le Bouquin, F. Menard, L. G. Mundy, L. M. Perez, L. Ricci, A. I. Sargent., S. Storm, L. Testi, D. J. Wilner "On the structure of the transition disk around TW Hydrae." 

     
     

    K. I. Lee, M. Fernández-López, S . Storm, L. W. Looney, L. G. Mundy, D. Segura-Cox, P. Teuben, E. Rosolowsky, H. G. Arce, E. C. Ostriker, Y. Shirley, W. Kwon, J. Kauffmann, J. J. Tobin, A. Plunkett, M. W. Pound, D. M. Salter, N. H. Volgenau, C.-Y. Chen, K. Tassis, A. Isella, R. M. Crutcher, C. F. Gammie, L. Testi "CARMA Large Area Star Formation Survey: Structure and Kinematics of Dense Gas in Serpens Main." 

     
     

    K. Zhang, A. Isella, J. M. Carpenter, G. A. Blake "Comparison of the Dust and Gas Radial Structure in the Transition Disk [PZ99] J160421.7-213028." 

     
     

    L. Perez, A. Isella, J. M. Carpenter, C. J. Chandler, "Large-scale Asymmetries in the Transitional Disks of SAO 206462 and SR 21." 

     
     

    L. Ricci., L. Testi, A. Natta, A. Sholz, I. de Gregorio-Monsalvo, A. Isella "Brown Dwarf Disks with ALMA." 

     
     

    M. Fernandez-Lopez, H. G. Arce, L. Looney, L. G. Mundy, S. Storm, P. J. Teuben, K. Lee, D. Segura-Cox, A. Isella, J. J. Tobin, E. Rosolowsky, A. Plunkett, W. Kwon, J. Kauffmann, E. Ostriker, K. Tassis, Y. L. Shirley, M. Pound "CARMA Large Area Star Formation Survey: Observational Analysis of Filaments in the Serpens South Molecular Cloud." 

     
     

    P . Pinilla, M. Benisty, T. Birnstiel, L. Ricci, A. Isella, A. Natta "Millimetre spectral indices of transition disks and their relation to the cavity radius." 

     
     

    S. M. Andrews, C. J. Chandler, A. Isella, T. Birnstiel, K. A. Rosenfeld, D. J. Wilner, L. M. Perez, L. Ricci, J. M. Carpenter, N. Calvet, S. Corder, A. T. Deller, C. P. Dullemond, J. S. greaves, R. J. Harris, Th. Henning, W. Kwon, J., Lazio, H. Linz, L. G. Mundy, A. I. Sargent, S. Storm, L. Testi "“Resolved Multifrequency Radio Observations of GG Tau." 

     
     

    S. Storm, L. G. Mundy, M. Fernandez-Lopez, K. I. Lee, W. L. Looney, P. J. Teuben, E. Rosolowsky, H. G. Arce, E. C. Ostriker, D. Segura-Cox, M. W. Pound, D. M. Salter, N. H. Volgenau, Y. Shirley, C.-Y. Chen, H. Gong, A. L. Plunkett, J. J. Tobin, W. Kwon, J., A. Isella, J. Kauffmann, K. Tassis, R. M. Crutcher, C. Gammie, L. Testi "CARMA Large Area Star Formation Survey: Project Overview with Analysis of Dense Gas Structure and Kinematics in Barnard 1." 

     
     Articles
     

    Carilli, C. L.; McKinnon, M.; Ott, J.; Beasley, A.; Isella, A.; Murphy, E.; Leroy, A.; Casey, C.; Moullet, A.; Lacy, M.; Hodge, J.; Bower, G.; Demorest, P.; Hull, C.; Hughes, M.; di Francesco, J.; Narayanan, D.; Kent, B.; Clark, B.; Butler, B. "Next Generation Very Large Array Memo No. 5: Science Working Groups -- Project Overview." arXiv: 1510.06438

     
     

    Isella, Andrea; Hull, Charles L. H.; Moullet, Arielle; Galván-Madrid, Roberto; Johnstone, Doug; Ricci, Luca; Tobin, John; Testi, Leonardo; Beltran, Maite; Lazio, Joseph; Siemion, Andrew; Liu, Hauyu Baobab; Du, Fujun; Öberg, Karin I.; Bergin, Ted; Caselli, Paola; Bourke, Tyler; Carilli, Chris; Perez, Laura; Butler, Bryan; de Pater, Imke; Qi, Chunhua; Hofstadter, Mark; Moreno, Raphael; Alexander, David; Williams, Jonathan; Goldsmith, Paul; Wyatt, Mark; Loinard, Laurent; Di Francesco, James; Wilner, David; Schilke, Peter; Ginsburg, Adam; Sánchez-Monge, Álvaro; Zhang, Qizhou; Beuther, Henrik, "Next Generation Very Large Array Memo No. 6, Science Working Group 1: The Cradle of Life." arXiv:1510.06444

     
     Book chapters
     

    Testi, L.; Birnstiel, T.; Ricci, L.; Andrews, S.; Blum, J.; Carpenter, J.; Dominik, C.; Isella, A.; Natta, A.; Williams, J. P.; Wilner, D. J. "Dust Evolution in Protoplanetary Disks." Protostars and Planets VI

     
     Other
     

    Bolatto, Alberto D; Chatterjee, Shami; Casey, Caitlin M; Chomiuk, Laura; de Pater, Imke; Dickinson, Mark; Di Francesco, James; Hallinan, Gregg; Isella, Andrea; Kohno, Kotaro; "Key Science Goals for the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA): Report from the ngVLA Science Advisory Council." arXiv preprint arXiv:1711.09960 (2017)

     
     

    Bolatto, Alberto D; Chatterjee, Shami; Casey, Caitlin M; Chomiuk, Laura; de Pater, Imke; Dickinson, Mark; Di Francesco, James; Hallinan, Gregg; Isella, Andrea; Kohno, Kotaro; "Key Science Goals for the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA): Report from the ngVLA Science Advisory Council." arXiv preprint arXiv:1711.09960 (2017)

     
     

    Storm, S; Mundy, LG; Lee, KI; Fernandez-Lopez, M; Looney, LW; Teuben, P; Arce, HG; Rosolowsky, EW; Meisner, AM; Isella, A; "VizieR Online Data Catalog: CLASSy: CARMA obs. in L1451 region of Perseus (Storm+, 2016)." VizieR Online Data Catalog, 183 (2017)

     
     

    Storm, S; Mundy, LG; Lee, KI; Fernandez-Lopez, M; Looney, LW; Teuben, P; Arce, HG; Rosolowsky, EW; Meisner, AM; Isella, A; "VizieR Online Data Catalog: CLASSy: CARMA obs. in L1451 region of Perseus (Storm+, 2016)." VizieR Online Data Catalog, 183 (2017)

     
    Presentations
     Conference Committee Member
     

    chair of the organizing committee .  "The origin of galaxies, stars, and planets in the era of ALMA

     
    ." (11/29/2017)

     
     Conference Paper
     

    "Study planet formation with future radio telescopes." U.S. Radio/Millimeter/ Submillimeter Science Futures in the 2020s, Chicago. (December, 2015)

     
     Invited Papers
     

    "J160421.7-213028: A remarkably boring disk." Transitional Disk Workshop, Leiden, The Netherlands. (March, 2015)

     
     Invited Talks
     

    "Shaping the ngVLA: Science Advisory Council and Working Groups." Kavli meeting: U.S. Radio/Millimeter/Submillimeter Science Futures III, (08/03/2017)

     
     

    "From Circumstellar Disks to Extrasolar Planets: Observational Insights." IAUS 315, General Assembly of the International Astronomical Society, Honolulu, Hawaii. (August, 2015)

     
     

    "Report from the NGVLA Cradle of Life Science Working Group." American Astronomical Society meeting, Seattle. (January, 2015)

     
     

    "What do observations tell us about planet formation." colloquium at the Department of Earth Science,, Rice University, Houston. (September, 2015)

     
     

    "ALMA Observations of Circumstellar Discs."

     
     

    "From Circumstellar Disks to Extrasolar Planets: Observational Insights."

     
     

    "From Circumstellar Disks to Extrasolar Planets: Observational Insights."

     
     

    "From Circumstellar Disks to Extrasolar Planets: Observational Insights."

     
     Posters
     

    "Analysis of the Serpens South Filamentary Cloud: CLASSy Results."

     
     

    "Dendrogram Analysis of Large-Area CARMA Images in Perseus: the Dense Gas in NGC 1333, Barnard 1, and L1451."

     
     

    "First images from the PIONIER/VLTI optical interferometry imaging survey of Herbig Ae/Be stars."

     
     

    "Imaging Young Stellar Objects with VLTi/PIONIER."

     
     

    "Imaging and modeling SSTTau J042021+281349, a new prototypical edge-on protoplanetary disk."

     
     

    "Kinematics and Temperature Structures of Filaments in Serpens Main and Serpens South."

     
     

    "Panchromatic imaging and modeling of SSTtau J042021+281349: A new prototypical edge-on protoplanetary disk."

     
     

    "Resolved Multifrequency Radio Observations of GG Tau."

     
     

    "TW Hydrae: multiwavelength interferometry of a transition disk."

     
     

    "The Structure of Dense Gas in Perseus and Serpens: CLASSy Results."

     
     

    "[PZ99] J160421.7-213028, a transition disk with ring shaped dust accumulation."

     
     Seminar Speaker
     

    "

    Disk sub-structures revealed by ALMA: implications for planet formation

    ." SOFIA Science Center, NASA, Ames, CA. (05/03/2017)

     
     

    "

    Planet Formation Seen with Radio Eyes

    ." Los Alamos National Laboratory - Center for Space and Earth Science, (08/17/2017)

     
     

    "Shaping the ngVLA: Science Advisory Council and Working Groups." Developing the ngVLA Science Program Workshop, (06/27/2017)

     
     

    "The formation of planets: an ALMA perspective." IAU board meeting, Houston. (02/09/2017)

     
     

    "From Circumstellar Disks to Extrasolar Planets: Observational Insights." Astronomy colloquium, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM,. (May, 2015)

     
    Supervised Theses & Dissertations
     Sal Tijerina, BS MODELLING OF PLANET FORMATION IN THE EARLY SOLAR SYSTEM. (2015) (Thesis Director)