Tuesday 31 Oct 2017Dust Sculptors: Hidden planets in the Dustiest Debris Disk Systems

Elisabeth Matthews - University of Exeter

4th Floor Interaction Area 11:15-11:45

We have been conducting an imaging survey using VLT/SPHERE, to search for giant planets at wide separations (>10au, beyond the snow line). The transit and RV methods for detecting exoplanets are not sensitive at these wide separations, and so imaging is the only technique allowing us to probe the planet frequencies at these separations, and understand the formation of these wide separation objects.
For a long time, it has been suggested that debris disks might be linked to the presence of planets: dust is quickly removed from a stellar system by stellar winds or the Poynting-Robertson effect, and so for dust to be observed around stars >~10Myr old it must be constantly regenerated via planetesimal collisions. Not only are these planetesimals the building blocks of giant planets, but in fact the presence of a giant planet will perturb the orbits of planetesimals in the system, making them more likely to collide and producing even more dust.
In our current work, we are interested not just in targets hosting debris disks, but specifically in those systems where there is evidence that a debris disk has been carved into multiple, separate rings of dust. The most likely cause of such a gap is the gravitational influence of one or several giant planets. Even further, we can use the dynamical properties of these debris disks to place tight constraints on the system, even if no exoplanets are detected. In this talk I will outline our recent survey of 25 systems with previously confirmed multi-belt debris disk systems, and describe our preliminary results. I will also briefly discuss our recent discovery in scattered light of the debris disk around HD129590.

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