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Star and Planet Formation Conference

Astronomers at the Protostars and Planets Conference discuss some of the many poster papers presented at the conference. Photo by Bo Reipurth.

"Protostars and Planets V" (PPV), the biggest astronomy conference ever held in the Hawaiian Islands, took place during the week of October 24–-28, 2005, at the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort. PPV attracted 805 participants from 30 countries. Organized by IfA's Bo Reipurth and David Jewitt, and Klaus Keil from the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, this conference brought together astronomers, planetary scientists, and scientists who study meteorites.

Every year, many smaller meetings cover more specialized topics, but the Protostars and Planets conferences, held every seven years since 1978, are unique in their wide-ranging perspective and in their strong emphasis on cross-disciplinary research. They facilitate the interactions between those who study star formation and those who study the origin of the solar system. The 2005 conference participants were able to hear 58 talks and view over 600 posters that presented the latest information about the formation of stars and brown dwarfs, the swirling dusty disks out of which planets condense, the ever-increasing number of known extrasolar planets, and comets and the other small bodies left over from the formation of our solar system.

The field of star and planet formation is now going through a period of rapid advances driven largely by the development of sophisticated observing techniques. PPV was notable for the presentation of new results about extrasolar planetary systems. So many of them have been found that scientists are beginning to be able to compare the architectures of the different systems with our solar system. Also, new results from interferometers (two or more telescopes connected to operate as a single larger telescope) such as the Submillimeter Array on Mauna Kea have provided amazing new insights into the environments of newborn stars.