Leonardo Krapp was first compelled to pursue planet formation research upon seeing an astonishing image: a distant and diverse planet-incubating environment captured by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope. As a computational astrophysicist, Leonardo reproduces the conditions where exoplanets are born using complex 3D models. These simulations of the entire protoplanetary disk zoom in to sufficiently small scales to examine gas and dust dynamics that help determine the final mass and composition of planets. By developing a state-of-the-art method that extended the powerful code FARGO3D, he simulated dust grains in a range of sizes to represent realistic conditions of planet formation. Leonardo’s work helped fill a fundamental gap in assumptions about the growth and evolution of planets and opened up new avenues of research in this field.

In his fellowship, Leonardo will guide and clarify efforts to detect growing gas giant planets by employing the FARGO3D code he co-developed. His expansions to the code will generate protoplanetary disk simulations in higher detail—demonstrating the physical properties of accreting gas and dust as planets form and defining the impacts of such processes in a broader context. Leonardo received a Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics from University of Copenhagen—The Niels Bohr Institute in Summer 2019.

“Our efforts as astrophysicists must rise to meet the standards of the new scientific revolution that the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will create. It’s our time to work hard to produce models that are more realistic and self-consistent.”