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Astrophysics > Earth and Planetary Astrophysics

Title: Constraining the orbit of the possible companion to Beta Pictoris: New deep imaging observations

Abstract: We recently reported on the detection of a possible planetary-mass companion to Beta Pictoris at a projected separation of 8 AU from the star, using data taken in November 2003 with NaCo, the adaptive-optics system installed on the Very Large Telescope UT4. Eventhough no second epoch detection was available, there are strong arguments to favor a gravitationally bound companion rather than a background object. If confirmed and located at a physical separation of 8 AU, this young, hot (~1500 K), massive Jovian companion (~8 Mjup) would be the closest planet to its star ever imaged, could be formed via core-accretion, and could explain the main morphological and dynamical properties of the dust disk. Our goal was to return to Beta Pic five years later to obtain a second-epoch observation of the companion or, in case of a non-detection, constrain its orbit. Deep adaptive-optics L'-band direct images of Beta Pic and Ks-band Four-Quadrant-Phase-Mask (4QPM) coronagraphic images were recorded with NaCo in January and February 2009. We also use 4QPM data taken in November 2004. No point-like signal with the brightness of the companion candidate (apparent magnitudes L'=11.2 or Ks ~ 12.5) is detected at projected distances down to 6.5 AU from the star in the 2009 data. As expected, the non-detection does not allow to rule out a background object; however, we show that it is consistent with the orbital motion of a bound companion that got closer to the star since first observed in 2003 and that is just emerging from behind the star at the present epoch. We place strong constraints on the possible orbits of the companion and discuss future observing prospects.
Comments: 8 pages, 8 figures, 1 table, accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
Cite as: arXiv:0906.5520 [astro-ph.EP]
  (or arXiv:0906.5520v2 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: David Ehrenreich [view email] [via CCSD proxy]
[v1] Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:48:26 GMT (286kb)
[v2] Wed, 1 Jul 2009 14:37:52 GMT (2046kb)