Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy
College Station, Texas 77843
The chemistry of protoplanetary disks sets the initial composition of newly formed planets and may also regulate the efficiency by which planets form. Disk chemical abundances typically evolve over timescales spanning thousands if not millions of years. Consequently, it was a surprise when ALMA observations taken over the course of a single year showed significantly variable molecular emission in H13CO+ relative to the otherwise constant thermal dust emission in the IM Lup protoplanetary disk. HCO+ is a known X-ray sensitive molecule, and one possible explanation is that stellar activity is perturbing the chemical “steady state” of the disk. If confirmed, simultaneous observations may provide a new tool to measure (and potentially map) fundamental disk parameters, such as electron density, as the light from X-ray flares propagates across the disk.