The formation of planets is one of the key questions in astrophysics. The first step in this process is the coagulation of dust: the growth from sub-micron dust particles to ever larger aggregates ultimately leading to the formation of multi-kilometer sized `planetesimals'. Once these planetesimals are formed, gravitational interaction starts to dominate over all other forces, and eventually leads to the formation of rocky planets. In our Forschergruppe we focus on the first stage in the planet formation scenario, i.e. on the growth process from dust to planetesimals.

This stage suffers from a large number of unsolved mysteries, many of which are critical to our understanding of the planetesimal formation process as a whole. Among them are: The seemingly insurmountable' meter-size barrier' for the collisional growth of particles, the poorly understood causes of the complex mineralogical structure of meteorites, and the apparent lack of correlation between certain observational signatures of grain evolution and the age of the parent star. In spite of the clear connection between these issues, they have mostly been studied by somewhat separate scientific communities. In particular the meteoritics/cosmochemistry/astromineralogy community, the collision experimentalists, the theoretical astrophysicists and the observational astronomers have had relatively little cross-field collaboration in the past.
The most promising option to solve many questions surrounding the growth from dust to planetesimals is to unite these various communities in a joint research effort. This is the purpose of the current Forschergruppe.

Funding Period I ran from January 2007 to December 2009. We are presently in the 2nd. Funding Period, commencing from January 2010 until December 2012.

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