The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 317–382 | Cite as

Formation and evolution of planetary systems: the impact of high-angular resolution optical techniques

  • Olivier Absil
  • Dimitri Mawet
Review Article


The direct images of giant extrasolar planets recently obtained around several main sequence stars represent a major step in the study of planetary systems. These high-dynamic range images are among the most striking results obtained by the current generation of high-angular resolution instruments which will be superseded by a new generation of instruments in the coming years. It is, therefore, an appropriate time to review the contributions of high-angular resolution visible/infrared techniques to the rapidly growing field of extrasolar planetary science. During the last 20 years, the advent of the Hubble Space Telescope, of adaptive optics on 4- to 10-m class ground-based telescopes, and of long-baseline infrared stellar interferometry, has opened a new viewpoint on the formation and evolution of planetary systems. By spatially resolving the optically thick circumstellar discs of gas and dust where planets are forming, these instruments have considerably improved our models of early circumstellar environments and have thereby provided new constraints on planet formation theories. High-angular resolution techniques are also directly tracing the mechanisms governing the early evolution of planetary embryos and the dispersal of optically thick material around young stars. Finally, mature planetary systems are being studied with an unprecedented accuracy thanks to single-pupil imaging and interferometry, precisely locating dust populations and putting into light a whole new family of long-period giant extrasolar planets.


Planetary systems Circumstellar matter Techniques: high-angular resolution Techniques: interferometric 


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© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département d’Astrophysique, Géophysique et OcéanographieUniversité de LiègeSart TilmanBelgium
  2. 2.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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