Jacob White

My research primarily deals with circumstellar disks of dust and gas around young, planet-forming stars. These disks can be considered the nurseries in which planets are born and by studying them we can gain insight into the planet formation process.

As a member of the SACCRED research group, I study the outburst mechanisms of young stars. The outbursts in these systems, which may be a common evolutionary trait in all stars, can have a significant impact on the evolution on their circumstellar disks and may even influence the early stages of planet formation. The primary tools that I use to study these disk are the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) and the Very Large Array (VLA). These radio telescopes allow us to probe the material in the circumstellar disks directly, without the bright protostars negatively impacting the observations. By studying the mass, size, and geometry of the disks, we are able to put constrains on how the outburst can impact both disk evolution and planet formation mechanisms. 

A brief overview of the APEX observations of multiple CO species in the V883 Ori system (White et al. 2019)

Debris disks (a specific type of circumstellar disk) can be thought of as the remnants of the plant formation process. These disks are similar to the Asteroid and Kuiper Belts in our own Solar System and are mostly comprised of large asteroids and comets. Debris disks can yield insights into the timescales of planet formation as well as the size and location of difficult to detect planets.  My doctoral dissertation (2018) from the University of British Columbia focused on characterizing these debris disks.  In addition to studying these disks, I am observing many stars with no known debris. This project, called “Measuring the Emission of Stellar Atmospheres at Submillimeter/millimeter wavelengths” (MESAS), is important in order to build accurate models of stellar emission at radio frequencies. These models are imperative to study the debris in systems where it is difficult to spatially separate the emission from a disk and its host star.

Brightness temperature plots of F-type stars (Left) and A-type stars (right) observed as part of the MESAS project. The significant variation between stellar types was not expected and highlight the importance of why an accurate stellar spectrum is needed to study unresovled debris (White et al. 2018, White et al. 2018 White et al. 2019, White et al. 2020)

More details about my research can be found on my personal website and a full ADS list of my publications is available here.

I am also very passionate about public outreach and enjoy presenting scientific concepts to a more general audience. I strongly believe that as scientists we are public servants and have an ethical obligation to present our research to the public in an accessible format. I have a long background of public outreach throughout my academic career and while in Hungary I created and manage Astronomy on Tap – Budapest. This program has free monthly events that bring professional astronomers to a pub to present their research in a fun and relaxed setting. Since creating the program in 2018, we have had the opportunity to showcase our exciting finding to over 1000 people.

An Astronomy on Tap – Budapest event from 2019 that highlighted Women In Science.