Paola Pinilla

Welcome to my webpage!

About me


I am a NASA Hubble fellow working on the topic of planet formation at Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona. Working at University of Arizona has been really exciting with the large amount of experts on planet formation and planetary science, including: Prof. Andrew Youdin, Prof. Kaitlin Kratter, Prof. Daniel Apai, and Prof. Ilaria Pascucci.

I obtained my Ph.D. at ITA at the University of Heidelberg in July 2013, where I worked in the group of Prof. Cornelis P. Dullemond. From Sept. 2013 to Oct. 2016, I was a post-doctoral researcher working at Leiden Observatory, where I worked in the group of Prof. Ewine van Dishoeck.

My research focuses on understanding the first steps of planet formation by developing numerical simulations of gas and dust evolution in disks around young stars and comparing the results with observations from e.g. ALMA and VLT/SPHERE.

Please find my current C.V. here.

Feel free to contact me for any question:


Some Recent Results


Further evidence of mm-sized particles in BD disks

We present 3mm photometric observations carried out with PdBI of three BD disks, which have been previously observed with ALMA at 0.89mm. We found low values of the spectral index that suggest the presence of mm-grains in these disks. We compare these observations with models of particle trapping by planets.



Different Ice Lines create gaps and rings in protoplanetary disks that are observable at different wavelengths.

We investigate the effect that ice lines have on the dust evolution, including simplified prescriptions of the fragmentation velocity threshold, which is assumed to change radially at the location of one, two, or three ice lines. The gaps are expected to be shallower and narrower at millimeter emission than at near-infrared, opposite to model predictions of particle trapping.



A review paper: Particle Trapping in Protoplanetary Disks: Models vs. Observations

Together with Prof. Andrew Youdin, we wrote a review chapter for the book “Formation, Evolution, and Dynamics of Young Solar Systems”, to be published by Springer. If you are interested to have a copy, please do not hesitate to contact me.



ALMA Observations of SR24S (paper)

We present new ALMA observations at 1.3mm of SR24S. The data are compared with previous ALMA observations at shorter wavelength. We conclude that the ring-like emission is narrower at longer wavelengths and we find that the emission of CO isotopologues peaks at the center of the continuum cavity.



Dead zones create TDs structures (paper)

Main signatures of transition disks (TDs) can be reproduced by assuming a dead zone in the disk, such as gap-like structure in scattered light and millimetre continuum emission, and a lower gas surface density within the dead zone. Previous studies showed that the Rossby wave instability can also develop at the edge of such dead zones, forming vortices and also creating asymmetries



Multiple rings observed with SPHERE (paper)

Recent SPHERE observations revealed the existance of multiple rings in scattered light, and companion candidates around RX J1615.3-3255. In this case we detect two arcs, two rings, a gap and an inner disk with marginal evidence for an inner cavity. This kind of structure is not unique, see also the case of HD 97048



Spiral arms from photon travel time (paper)

The effect of light travel time from a clump, orbiting close of the central star, can create different structures in the outer disk. The delay in light rays reaching the sky plane gives rise to a variety of spiral- and arc-shaped shadows, which we describe with a general fitting formula for a flared, inclined disk.



Filtration & Variability in J1604 (paper)

We observed the transition disk J160421.7-213028 with VLT/SPHERE/ZIMPOL at R-band. We detected a ring peaking at around 60AU distance, which lies inside the cavity detected in the submillimetre. We also detect a dip, which seems to have a fast rotation speed compared to the local Keplerian angular velocity.



Refereed Journal Publication List

The list can be found on ADS

44) The circumstellar disk HD 169142: gas, dust and planets acting in concert?
Pohl, A.; Benisty, M.; Pinilla, P.; Ginski, C.; de Boer, J.; Avenhaus, H.; Henning, Th.; et al. (+20 co-authors)
Submitted to ApJ.

43) VLA Observations of the Disk Around the Young Brown Dwarf 2M0444
Ricci, L.; Rome, H.; Pinilla, P., Facchini, S.; Birnstiel, T.; Testi, L.
Accepted for publication in ApJ.

42) Determining giant planet masses from simultaneous mm continuum and line observations in (transition) disks
Facchini, S.; Pinilla, P.; van Dishoeck, E. F.; de Juan Ovelar, M.
Submitted to A&A.

41) Millimeter Spectral Indices and Dust Trapping by Planets in Drown Dwarf Disks
Pinilla, P.; Quiroga-Nuñez, L. H.; Benisty, M.; Natta, A.; Ricci, L.; Henning, Th.; van der Plas, G.; Birnstiel, T.; Testi, L.; Ward-Duong, K.
Accepted for publication in ApJ.

40) Investigation of the inner structures around HD169142 with VLT/SPHERE
Ligi, R.; Vigan, A.; Gratton, R.; et al. (+ 46 co-authors, including Pinilla, P.)
Submitted to MNRAS.

39) Dust Density Distribution and Imaging Analysis of Different Ice Lines in Protoplanetary Disks
Pinilla, P.; Pohl, A.; Stammler, S. M.; Birnstiel T.
ApJ, 845, 68 (2017), astro-ph, ADS

38) First Millimeter Detection of the Disk around a Young, Isolated, Planetary-Mass Object
Bayo, A.; Joergens, V.; Liu Y.; Brauer R.; Olofsson J.; Arancibia J.; Pinilla, P.; Wolf S.; Ruge, J.P.; Henning, Th.; Natta, A.; Johnston, K.G.; Bonnefoy, M.; Beuther, H.; Chauvin G.
ApJL, 841, L11 (2007), astro-ph, ADS

37) A Multi-wavelength Analysis of Dust and Gas in the SR 24S Transition Disk
Pinilla, P.; Pérez, L. M.; Andrews, S.; van der Marel, N.; van Dishoeck, E. F.; Ataiee, S.; Benisty, M.; Birnstiel, T.; Juhász, A.; Natta, A.; Ricci, L.; Testi, L.
ApJ, 839, 99 (2017), astro-ph, ADS

36) Particle Trapping in Protoplanetary Disks: Models vs. Observations
Pinilla, P. and Youdin, A.
Accepted as a review in: Pessah M., Gressel O. (eds.) Formation, Evolution, and Dynamics of Young Solar Systems. Astrophysics and Space Science Library, vol. 445. Springer, Cham.

35) A gas density drop in the inner 6 AU of the transition disk around the Herbig Ae star HD 139614: Further evidence for a giant planet inside the disk?
Carmona, A.; Thi, W. F.; Kamp, I.; Baruteau, C.; Matter, A.; van den Ancker, M.; Pinte, C.; Kóspál, A.; Audard, M.; Liebhart, A.; Sicilia-Aguilar, A.; Pinilla, P.; Regály, Zs.; Güdel, M.; Henning, Th.; Cieza, L. A.; Baldovin-Saavedra, C.; Meeus, G.; Eiroa, C.
A&A 598, A118 (2017), astro-ph, ADS

34) Shadows and spirals in the protoplanetary disk HD 100453
Benisty M.; Stolker T.; Pohl A.; de Boer J.; Lesur G.; Dominik C.; Dullemond C. P.; Langlois M.; Min M.; Wagner K.; Henning T.; Juhász A.; Pinilla, P., Facchini S.; (+ 36 co-authors)
A&A 597, A42 (2017), astro-ph, ADS

33) Vortices and spirals in the HD135344B transition disk
van der Marel, N.; Cazzoletti, P.; Pinilla P. ; Garufi, A.
ApJ 832, 178 (2016), astro-ph, ADS

32) Can dead zones create structures like a transition disk?
Pinilla, P.; Flock, M.; de Juan Ovelar, M.; Birnstiel, T.
A&A 596, A81 (2016), astro-ph, ADS

31) Multiple rings in the transition disk and companion candidates around RXJ1615.3-3255. High contrast imaging with VLT/SPHERE
de Boer, J.; Salter, G.; Benisty, M.; Vigan, A.; Boccaletti, A.; Pinilla, P.; Ginski, C.; Juhasz, A.; Maire, A.-L.; Messina, S.; Desidera, S.; Cheetham, A.; Girard, J. H.; Wahhaj, Z.; Langlois, M.; Bonnefoy, M.; Beuzit, J.-L.; Buenzli, E.; Chauvin, G.; Dominik, C.; Feldt, M.; Gratton, R.; Hagelberg, J.; Isella, A.; Janson, M.; Keller, C. U.; Lagrange, A.-M.; Lannier, J.; Menard, F.; Mesa, D.; Mouillet, D.; Mugrauer, M.; Peretti, S.; Perrot, C.; Sissa, E.; Snik, F.; Vogt, N.; Zurlo, A.; Consortium, SPHERE
A&A 595, A114 (2016), astro-ph, ADS, ESO Press Release

30) Direct detection of scattered light gaps in the transitional disk around HD 97048 with VLT/SPHERE
Ginski, C.; Stolker, T.; Pinilla, P.; Dominik, C.; Boccaletti, A.; de Boer, J.; Benisty, M.; Biller, B.; Feldt, M. Garufi, A.; Keller, C. U.; Kenworthy, M.; Maire, A. L.; Ménard, F.; Mesa, D.; Milli, J.; Min, M.; Pinte, C.; Quanz, S. P.; van Boekel, R.; Bonnefoy, M.; Chauvin, G.; Desidera, S.; Gratton, R.; Girard, J. H. V.; Keppler, M.; Kopytova, T.; Lagrange, A.-M.; Langlois, M.; Rouan, D.; Vigan, A.
A&A 595, A112 (2016), astro-ph, ADS, ESO Press Release

29) Spirals in protoplanetary disks from photon travel time
Kama, M.; Pinilla, P.; Heays, A. N.
A&A 593, A12 (2016), astro-ph, ADS

28) Investigating dust trapping in transition disks with millimeter-wave polarization
Pohl, A.; Kataoka, A.; Pinilla, P.; Dullemond, C. P.; Henning, Th.; Birnstiel, T
A&A 593, A12 (2016), astro-ph, ADS

27) Steeping of the 820 \(\mu\)m continuum surface-brightness profile signals dust evolution in TW Hya disk
Hogerheijde, M. R.; Bekkers, D.; Pinilla, P.; Salinas, V. N.; Kama, M.; Andrews, S.; Qi, C.; Wilner, D. J
A&A 586, A99 (2016), astro-ph, ADS

26) Constraining turbulence mixing strength in transitional discs with planets using SPHERE and ALMA
de Juan Ovelar, M.; Pinilla, P.; Min, M.; Dominik, C.; Birnstiel, T.
MNRAS 459, L85–L89 (2016), astro-ph, ADS

25) Imaging the H\(_2\)O snow line at the time of planet formation using two ALMA continuum bands
Banzatti, A.; Pinilla, P.; Ricci, L.; Pontoppidan, K. M.; Birnstiel, T.; Ciesla F.
ApJL 815, L15, 2015, astro-ph, ADS

24) A tunnel and a traffic jam: How transition disks maintain a detectable warm dust component despite the presence of a large planet-carved gap
Pinilla, P.; Klarmann L.; Birnstiel T.; Benisty M.; Dominik C.; Dullemond C. P.
A&A, 585, A35 (2016) astro-ph, ADS, NOVA press release

23) Variability and dust filtration in the transition disk J160421.7-213028 observed in optical scattered light
Pinilla, P.; de Boer, J.; Benisty, M.; Juhász, A.; de Juan Ovelar, M.; Dominik, C.; Avenhaus, H.; Birnstiel, T.; Girard, J. H.; Huelamo, N.; Isella, A.; Milli, J.
A&A 584, L4 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

22) Dust evolution can produce scattered light gaps in protoplanetary disks
Birnstiel, T.; Andrews, S.; Pinilla, P.; Kama, M.
ApJL, 813, L14 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

21) Fingerprints of giant planets in the photospheres of Herbig stars
Kama, M; Folsom, C. P.; Pinilla, P.
A&A 582, L10, astro-ph, ADS

20) Testing particle trapping in transition disks with ALMA
Pinilla, P.; van der Marel, N.; Pérez, L. M.; van Dishoeck, E. F.; Andrews, S.; Birnstiel, T.; Herczeg, G.; Pontoppidan, K. M.; van Kempen, T.;
A&A 584, A16 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

19) A compact concentration of large grains in the HD142527 protoplanetary dust trap.
Casassus, S.; Wright, C.; Marino, S.; Maddison, S. T.; Wootten, A.; Roman, P.; Pérez, S.; Pinilla, P.; Wyatt, M.; Moral, V.; Ménard, F.; Christiaens, V.; Cieza, L.; van der Plas, G.
ApJ, 812, 126 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

18) Scattered light images of spiral arms in marginally gravitationally unstable discs with an embedded planet
Pohl, A.; Pinilla, P.; Benisty, M.; Ataiee, S.; Juhász, A.; Dullemond C. P.; Van Boekel R.; Henning T.
MNRAS, 453, 1768 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

17) Resolving structure of the disk around HD100546 at 7 mm with ATCA
Wright, C.; Maddison, S.; Wilner, D.; Burton, M.; Lommen, D.; van Dishoeck, E. F.; Pinilla, P.; Bourke, T.; Ménard, F.; Walsh, C.
MNRAS, 453, 414 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

16) A strong concentration of centimeter-sized grains in the Oph IRS 48 dust trap
van der Marel, N; Pinilla, P.; Tobin, J.; van Kempen T. A.; Andrews S.; Ricci L; Birnstiel T.
ApJL, 810, L7 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

15) Vortex formation and evolution in planet harbouring disks under thermal relaxation
Lobo Gomes A.; Klahr H.; Uribe A. L., Pinilla P.; Surville C.
ApJ, 810, 94 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

14) Sequential planet formation in the HD 100546 protoplanetary disk?
Pinilla, P.; Birnstiel, T.; Walsh, C.
A&A, 580, A105 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

13) Dust trapping by spiral arms in gravitationally unstable protostellar discs
Dipierro, G.; Pinilla, P.; Lodato, G.; Testi, L.
MNRAS, 451, 5493 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

12) Asymmetric features in the protoplanetary disk MWC 758
Benisty, M.; Juhasz, A.; Boccaletti, A.; Avenhaus, H.; Milli, J.; Thalmann, C.; Dominik, C.; Pinilla, P.; Buenzli, E.; Pohl, A.; Beuzit, J.-L.; Birnstiel, T.; de Boer, J.; Bonnefoy, M.; Chauvin, G.; Christiaens, V.; Garufi, A.; Grady, C.; Henning, T.; Huelamo, N.; Isella, A.; Langlois, M.; Ménard, F.; Mouillet, D.; Olofsson, J.; Pantin, E.; Pinte, C.; Pueyo, L.
A&A, 578, L6 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

11) Gas and dust structures in protoplanetary disks hosting multiple planets
Pinilla, P.; de Juan Ovelar, M.; Ataiee, S.; Benisty, M.; Birnstiel, T.; van Dishoeck, E. F.; Min, M.
A&A, 573, A9 (2015), astro-ph, ADS

10) ALMA Hints at the Presence of two Companions in the Disk around HD 100546
Walsh, C.; Juhász, A.; Pinilla, P.; Harsono, D.; Mathews, G. S.; Dent, W. R. F.; Hogerheijde, M. R.; Birnstiel, T.; Meeus, G.; Nomura, H.; Aikawa, Y.; Millar, T. J.; Sandell, G.
ApJL, 791, L6 (2014), astro-ph, ADS

9) Millimetre spectral indices of transition disks and their relation to the cavity radius
Pinilla, P.; Benisty, M.; Birnstiel, T.; Ricci, L.; Isella, A.; Natta, A.; Dullemond, C. P.; Quiroga-Nuñez, L. H.; Henning, T.; Testi, L.
A&A, 564, A51 (2014), astro-ph, ADS

8) Imaging diagnostics for transitional discs
de Juan Ovelar, M.; Min, M.; Dominik, C.; Thalmann, C.; Pinilla, P.; Benisty, M.; Birnstiel, T.
A&A, 560, A111 (2013), astro-ph, ADS

7) Small vs. large dust grains in transitional disks: do different cavity sizes indicate a planet?. SAO 206462 (HD 135344B) in polarized light with VLT/NACO
Garufi, A.; Quanz, S. P.; Avenhaus, H.; Buenzli, E.; Dominik, C.; Meru, F.; Meyer, M. R.; Pinilla, P.; Schmid, H. M.; Wolf, S.
A&A, 60, A105 (2013), astro-ph, ADS

6) A Major Asymmetric Dust Trap in a Transition Disk
van der Marel, N.; van Dishoeck, E. F.; Bruderer, S.; Birnstiel, T; Pinilla, P.; Dullemond, C. P.; van Kempen, T. A.; Schmalzl, M.; Brown, J. M.; Herczeg, G. J.; Mathews, G. S.; Geers, V.
Science, 340, 1199 (2013), astro-ph, ADS, ESO Press Release

5) Explaining millimeter-sized particles in brown dwarf disks
Pinilla, P.; Birnstiel, T.; Benisty, M.; Ricci, L.; Natta, A.; Dullemond, C. P.; Dominik, C.; Testi, L.
A&A, 554, A95 (2013), astro-ph, ADS

4) Asymmetric transition disks: Vorticity or eccentricity?
Ataiee, S.; Pinilla, P.; Zsom, A.; Dullemond, C. P.; Dominik, C.; Ghanbari, J.
A&A, 553, L3 (2013), astro-ph, ADS

3) Lopsided dust rings in transition disks
Birnstiel, T.; Dullemond, C. P.; Pinilla, P.
A&A, 550, L8 (2013), astro-ph, ADS

2) Ring shaped dust accumulation in transition disks
Pinilla, P.; Benisty, M.; Birnstiel, T.
A&A, 545, A81 (2012), astro-ph, ADS

1) Trapping dust particles in the outer regions of protoplanetary disks
Pinilla, P.; Birnstiel, T.; Ricci, L.; Dullemond, C. P.; Uribe, A. L.; Testi, L.; Natta, A.
A&A, 538, A114 (2012), astro-ph, ADS