Perspective: Jonathan Lunine

Back Scientist's Perspective: Jonathan Lunine
Jonathan Lunine

Interdisciplinary Scientist, University of Arizona, Tuscon

Interview Date: Spring 2002

Webb will be able to provide all the details on how planets form. I will be able to study, in the mid-infrared, the disks out of which planets form in the course of star formation. It will be possible to track the position of planets and the effect of planets on those disks. We'll be able to measure the chemistry of those disks and where the ices are located. With Webb, we'll also be able to look at giant planets around other stars, and learn something of their properties. We'll then be able to go to our own solar system and look at the very faintest objects in our solar system and their compositions. By comparing our solar system to disks around other stars, we can put together, from the chemical and physical clues, all the steps that go from star formation to the presence of at least giant planets around other stars.

Now, given those steps and that giant planets have a very important effect on the stability of terrestrial planets, the supply of water on terrestrial planets, and so on, we will be able to estimate the fraction of systems that might be habitable if they have terrestrial planets. And from that point on, the next step will be to eventually look for terrestrial planets around nearby stars with other missions.