Direct imaging confirmation and characterization of a dust-enshrouded candidate exoplanet orbiting fomalhaut

Thayne Currie, John Debes, Timothy J. Rodigas, Adam Burrows, Yoichi Itoh, Misato Fukagawa, Scott J. Kenyon, Marc Kuchner, Soko Matsumura

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Abstract

We present Subaru/IRCS J-band data for Fomalhaut and a (re)reduction of archival 2004-2006 HST/ACS data first presented by Kalas et al. We confirm the existence of a candidate exoplanet, Fomalhaut b, in both the 2004 and 2006 F606W data sets at a high signal-to-noise ratio. Additionally, we confirm the detection at F814W and present a new detection in F435W. Fomalhaut b's space motion may be consistent with it being in an apsidally aligned, non-debris ring-crossing orbit, although new astrometry is required for firmer conclusions. We cannot confirm that Fomalhaut b exhibits 0.7-0.8 mag variability cited as evidence for planet accretion or a semi-transient dust cloud. The new, combined optical spectral energy distribution and IR upper limits confirm that emission identifying Fomalhaut b originates from starlight scattered by small dust, but this dust is most likely associated with a massive body. The Subaru and IRAC/4.5 μm upper limits imply M < 2 MJ, still consistent with the range of Fomalhaut b masses needed to sculpt the disk. Fomalhaut b is very plausibly "a planet identified from direct imaging" even if current images of it do not, strictly speaking, show thermal emission from a directly imaged planet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL32
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume760
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • planetary systems
  • stars: individual: (Fomalhaut)

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    Currie, T., Debes, J., Rodigas, T. J., Burrows, A., Itoh, Y., Fukagawa, M., Kenyon, S. J., Kuchner, M., & Matsumura, S. (2012). Direct imaging confirmation and characterization of a dust-enshrouded candidate exoplanet orbiting fomalhaut. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 760(2), [L32]. https://doi.org/10.1088/2041-8205/760/2/L32