References of "Absil, Olivier"
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See detailHerschel's "Cold Debris Disks": Background Galaxies or Quiescent Rims of Planetary Systems?
Krivov, A. V.; Eiroa, C.; Löhne, T. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 772

(abridged) Infrared excesses associated with debris disk host stars detected so far peak at wavelengths around ~100{\mu}m or shorter. However, six out of 31 excess sources in the Herschel OTKP DUNES have ... [more ▼]

(abridged) Infrared excesses associated with debris disk host stars detected so far peak at wavelengths around ~100{\mu}m or shorter. However, six out of 31 excess sources in the Herschel OTKP DUNES have been seen to show significant - and in some cases extended - excess emission at 160{\mu}m, which is larger than the 100{\mu}m excess. This excess emission has been suggested to stem from debris disks colder than those known previously. Using several methods, we re-consider whether some or even all of the candidates may be associated with unrelated galactic or extragalactic emission and conclude that it is highly unlikely that none of the candidates represents a true circumstellar disk. For true disks, both the dust temperatures inferred from the SEDs and the disk radii estimated from the images suggest that the dust is nearly as cold as a blackbody. This requires the grains to be larger than ~100{\mu}m, regardless of their material composition. To explain the dearth of small grains, we explore several conceivable scenarios: transport-dominated disks, disks of low dynamical excitation, and disks of unstirred primordial macroscopic grains. Our qualitative analysis and collisional simulations rule out the first two of these scenarios, but show the feasibility of the third one. We show that such disks can survive for gigayears, largely preserving the primordial size distribution. They should be composed of macroscopic solids larger than millimeters, but smaller than kilometers in size. Thus planetesimal formation, at least in the outer regions of the systems, has stopped before "cometary" or "asteroidal" sizes were reached. [less ▲]

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See detailDirect determination of physical parameters for main sequence stars
Rabus, Markus; Lachaume, Regis; Brahm, Rafael et al

in Protostars and Planets VI (2013, July 01)

The environment of planetary formation and evolution is mainly characterized by its host star's physical properties. Until recently most fundamental stellar parameters, like e. g. the star's radius and ... [more ▼]

The environment of planetary formation and evolution is mainly characterized by its host star's physical properties. Until recently most fundamental stellar parameters, like e. g. the star's radius and effective temperature, have only been estimated indirectly; but with advances in interferometric observing technique it is now possible to obtain a direct estimate of them. In this poster we present preliminary results from measured interferometric fringe visibilities of main-sequence stars. These visibilities were collected using the four-beam combiner VLTI/PIONIER instrument and the 1.8m Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) in A1-G1-K0-J3 quadruplet configuration. We bracketed each science target with different calibrators to ensure reducing the systematic errors in our data. For each target star, the data reduction was performed several hundred times, each time randomizing the set of fringes by the bootstrap method and the calibrators' diameters. This allowed us to take into account error correlations across spectral channels, between consecutive observations, and overnight. Each result was least-squares fitted by a uniform disc, yielding a value for the target's diameter. From the distribution of diameters we assessed the statistical error in the respective measurement. Using the HIPPARCOS parallax we estimated the distance and obtained the star's linear radius. Combined with the bolometric flux we obtained a direct quantification of the effective temperature from the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. Finally, these direct determinations of stellar radii and effective temperatures enable us to better characterize planets around main-sequence stars. [less ▲]

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See detailUnraveling the mystery of exozodiacal dust
Ertel, Steve; Augereau, Jean-Charles; Thebault, Philippe et al

in Protostars and Planets VI (2013, July 01)

Exozodiacal dust clouds are thought to be the extrasolar analogs of the Solar System's zodiacal dust. Studying these systems provides insights in the architecture of the innermost regions of planetary ... [more ▼]

Exozodiacal dust clouds are thought to be the extrasolar analogs of the Solar System's zodiacal dust. Studying these systems provides insights in the architecture of the innermost regions of planetary systems, including the habitable zone. Furthermore, the mere presence of the dust may result in major obstacles for direct imaging of earth-like planets. Our EXOZODI project aims to detect and study exozodiacal dust and to explain its origin. We are carrying out the first large, near-infrared interferometric survey in the northern (CHARA/FLUOR) and southern (VLTI/PIONIER) hemisphere. Preliminary results suggest a detection rate of up to 30% around A to K type stars and interesting trends with spectral type and age. In addition to the statistical analysis of our survey results, detailed modeling studies of single systems, modeling of possible dust creation mechanisms and the development of next-generation modeling tools dedicated to address the mystery of exozodiacal dust are main tasks of our project. [less ▲]

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See detailThe VLTI/PIONIER survey of southern TTauri disks.
Anthonioz, Fabien; Ménard, Francois; Pinte, Christophe et al

in Protostars and Planets VI (2013, July 01)

Studying the inner regions of protoplanetary disks (1-10 AU) is of importance to understand the formation of planets and the accretion process feeding the forming central star. Herbig AeBe stars are ... [more ▼]

Studying the inner regions of protoplanetary disks (1-10 AU) is of importance to understand the formation of planets and the accretion process feeding the forming central star. Herbig AeBe stars are bright enough to be routinely observed by Near IR interferometers. The data for the fainter T Tauri stars is much more sparse. In this contribution we present the results of our ongoing survey at the VLTI. We used the PIONIER combiner that allows the simultaneous use of 4 telescopes, yielding 6 baselines and 3 independent closure phases at once. PIONIER's integrated optics technology makes it a sensitive instrument. We have observed 22 T Tauri stars so far, the largest survey for T Tauri stars to this date. Our results demonstrate the very significant contribution of an extended component to the interferometric signal. The extended component is different from source to source and the data, with several baselines, offer a way to improve our knowledge of the disk geometry and/or composition.These results validate an earlier study by Pinte et al. 2008 and show that the dust inner radii of T Tauri disks now appear to be in better agreement with the expected position of the dust sublimation radius, contrary to previous claims. [less ▲]

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See detailDUst Around NEarby Stars. The survey observational results
Eiroa, C; Marshall, J; Mora, A et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 555

Context. Debris discs are a consequence of the planet formation process and constitute the fingerprints of planetesimal systems. Their solar system's counterparts are the asteroid and Edgeworth-Kuiper ... [more ▼]

Context. Debris discs are a consequence of the planet formation process and constitute the fingerprints of planetesimal systems. Their solar system's counterparts are the asteroid and Edgeworth-Kuiper belts. Aims. The DUNES survey aims at detecting extra-solar analogues to the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt around solar-type stars, putting in this way the solar system into context. The survey allows us to address some questions related to the prevalence and properties of planetesimal systems. Methods. We used Herschel/PACS to observe a sample of nearby FGK stars. Data at 100 and 160 μm were obtained, complemented in some cases with observations at 70 μm, and at 250, 350 and 500 μm using SPIRE. The observing strategy was to integrate as deep as possible at 100 μm to detect the stellar photosphere. Results. Debris discs have been detected at a fractional luminosity level down to several times that of the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt. The incidence rate of discs around the DUNES stars is increased from a rate of ∼ 12.1% ± 5% before Herschel to ∼ 20.2% ± 2%. A significant fraction (∼ 52%) of the discs are resolved, which represents an enormous step ahead from the previously known resolved discs. Some stars are associated with faint far-IR excesses attributed to a new class of cold discs. Although it cannot be excluded that these excesses are produced by coincidental alignment of background galaxies, statistical arguments suggest that at least some of them are true debris discs. Some discs display peculiar SEDs with spectral indexes in the 70–160 μm range steeper than the Rayleigh-Jeans one. An analysis of the debris disc parameters suggests that a decrease might exist of the mean black body radius from the F-type to the K-type stars. In addition, a weak trend is suggested for a correlation of disc sizes and an anticorrelation of disc temperatures with the stellar age. [less ▲]

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See detailHigh Contrast Imaging with the New Vortex Coronagraph on NACO
Mawet, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Girard, J. H. et al

in The Messenger (2013), 152

The installation and successful commissioning of an L'-band annular groove phase mask (AGPM) coronagraph on VLT/NACO is presented. The AGPM is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond sub-wavelength ... [more ▼]

The installation and successful commissioning of an L'-band annular groove phase mask (AGPM) coronagraph on VLT/NACO is presented. The AGPM is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond sub-wavelength gratings tuned to the L'-band. The vector vortex coronagraph enables high-contrast imaging at very small inner working angles (here 0.09 arcseconds, the diffraction limit of the VLT at L'), potentially opening up a new parameter space in high-resolution imaging. During technical and science verification runs, we discovered a late-type companion at two beamwidths from an F0V star, and imaged the inner regions of β Pictoris down to the previously unexplored projected radius of 1.75 astronomical units. The circumstellar disc of β Pic was also resolved from 1 to 5 arcseconds. These results showcase the potential of the NACO L'-band AGPM over a wide range of spatial scales. [less ▲]

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See detailRecent results on the hierarchical triple system HD 150136
Gosset, Eric ULg; Berger, J. P.; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

in Bonanos, Alceste (Ed.) Massive Stars: From alpha to Omega (2013, June 01)

HD 150136 is a hierarchical triple system, non-thermal radio emitter, made of three O stars totalling some 130 solar masses. The 2.67-day inner orbit is rather well-known. Recent works derived a good ... [more ▼]

HD 150136 is a hierarchical triple system, non-thermal radio emitter, made of three O stars totalling some 130 solar masses. The 2.67-day inner orbit is rather well-known. Recent works derived a good approximation for the outer orbit with a period of 3000 days. We report here on interferometric observations that allow us to angularly resolve the outer orbit. First evidences for an astrometric displacement are given. The determination of the outer system orbit gives access to the inclinations of the systems and to the masses, including the one of the O3-O3.5 primary star. [less ▲]

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See detailThree-dimensional orbits of the triple-O stellar system HD 150136
Sana, H.; Le Bouquin, J.-B.; Mahy, Laurent et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 553

Context. HD 150136 is a triple hierarchical system and a non-thermal radio emitter. It is formed by an O3-3.5 V + O5.5-6 V close binary and a more distant O6.5-7 V tertiary. So far, only the inner orbital ... [more ▼]

Context. HD 150136 is a triple hierarchical system and a non-thermal radio emitter. It is formed by an O3-3.5 V + O5.5-6 V close binary and a more distant O6.5-7 V tertiary. So far, only the inner orbital properties have been reliably constrained. Aims. To quantitatively understand the non-thermal emission process, accurate knowledge of the physical and orbital properties of the object is crucial. Here, we aim to investigate the orbital properties of the wide system and to constrain the inclinations of the inner and outer binaries, and with these the absolute masses of the system components. Methods. We used the PIONIER combiner at the Very Large Telescope Interferometer to obtain the very first interferometric measurements of HD 150136. We combined the interferometric observations with new and existing high resolution spectroscopic data to derive the orbital solution of the outer companion in the three-dimensional space. Results. The wide system is clearly resolved by PIONIER, with a projected separation on the plane of the sky of about 9 milli-arcsec. The best-fit orbital period, eccentricity, and inclination are 8.2 yr, 0.73 and 108 degr. We constrain the masses of the three stars of the system to 63 +/- 10, 40 +/- 6, and 33 +/- 12 Msun for the O3-3.5 V, O5.5-6 V and O6.5-7 V components. Conclusions. The dynamical masses agree within errors with the evolutionary masses of the components. Future interferometric and spectroscopic monitoring of HD 150136 should allow one to reduce the uncertainties to a few per cent only and to accurately constrain the distance to the system. This makes HD 150136 an ideal system to quantitatively test evolutionary models of high-mass stars as well as the physics of non-thermal processes occurring in O-type systems. [less ▲]

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See detailLaboratory demonstration of a mid-infrared AGPM vector vortex coronagraph
Delacroix, Christian ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Forsberg, Pontus et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 553

Coronagraphy is a powerful technique to achieve high contrast imaging and hence to image faint companions around bright targets. Various concepts have been used in the visible and near-infrared regimes ... [more ▼]

Coronagraphy is a powerful technique to achieve high contrast imaging and hence to image faint companions around bright targets. Various concepts have been used in the visible and near-infrared regimes, while coronagraphic applications in the mid-infrared remain nowadays largely unexplored. Vector vortex phase masks based on concentric subwavelength gratings show great promise for such applications. We aim at producing and validating the first high-performance broadband focal plane phase mask coronagraphs for applications in the mid-infrared regime, and in particular the L band with a fractional bandwidth of ~16% (3.5-4.1 \mu m). Based on rigorous coupled wave analysis, we designed an annular groove phase mask (AGPM) producing a vortex effect in the L band, and etched it onto a series of diamond substrates. The grating parameters were measured by means of scanning electron microscopy. The resulting components were then tested on a mid-infrared coronagraphic test bench. A broadband raw null depth of 2 x 10^{-3} was obtained for our best L-band AGPM after only a few iterations between design and manufacturing. This corresponds to a raw contrast of about 6 x 10^{-5} (10.5 mag) at 2\lambda/D. This result is fully in line with our projections based on rigorous coupled wave analysis modeling, using the measured grating parameters. The sensitivity to tilt and focus has also been evaluated. After years of technological developments, mid-infrared vector vortex coronagraphs finally become a reality and live up to our expectations. Based on their measured performance, our L-band AGPMs are now ready to open a new parameter space in exoplanet imaging at major ground-based observatories. [less ▲]

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See detailParasitic interference in nulling interferometry
Matter, A.; Defrère, D.; Danchi, W. C. et al

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2013), 431(2), 1286-1295

Nulling interferometry aims to detect faint objects close to bright stars. Its principle is to produce a destructive interference along the line of sight so that the stellar flux is rejected, while the ... [more ▼]

Nulling interferometry aims to detect faint objects close to bright stars. Its principle is to produce a destructive interference along the line of sight so that the stellar flux is rejected, while the flux of the off-axis source can be transmitted. In practice, various instrumental perturbations can degrade the nulling performance. Any imperfection in phase, amplitude or polarization produces a spurious flux that leaks to the interferometer output and corrupts the transmitted off-axis flux. One of these instrumental perturbations is the crosstalk phenomenon, which occurs because of multiple parasitic reflections inside transmitting optics, and/or diffraction effects related to beam propagation along finite size optics. It can include a crosstalk of a beam with itself, and a mutual crosstalk between different beams. This can create a parasitic interference pattern, which degrades the intrinsic transmission map - or intensity response - of the interferometer. In this context, we describe how this instrumental effect impairs the performance of a Bracewell interferometer. A simple formalism is developed to derive the corresponding modified intensity response of the interferometer, as a function of the two parameters of interest: the crosstalk level (or contamination rate) and the phase shift between the primary and secondary - parasitic - beams. We then apply our mathematical approach to a few scientific cases, both analytically and using the GENIESIM simulation software, adapted to handle coherent crosstalk. Our results show that a coherent crosstalk level of about 1 per cent implies a 20 per cent drop of the signal-to-noise ratio at most. Careful attention should thus be paid to reduce the crosstalk level inside an interferometric instrument and ensure an instrumental stability that provides the necessary sensitivity through calibration procedures. [less ▲]

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See detailL'-band AGPM vector vortex coronagraph's first light on VLT/NACO: Discovery of a late-type companion at two beamwidths from an F0V star
Mawet, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Delacroix, Christian ULg et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 552

Context. High contrast imaging has thoroughly combed through the limited search space accessible with first-generation ground-based adaptive optics instruments and the Hubble Space Telescope. Only a few ... [more ▼]

Context. High contrast imaging has thoroughly combed through the limited search space accessible with first-generation ground-based adaptive optics instruments and the Hubble Space Telescope. Only a few objects were discovered, and many non-detections reported and statistically interpreted. The field is now in need of a technological breakthrough. Aim. Our aim is to open a new search space with first-generation systems such as NACO at the Very Large Telescope, by providing ground-breaking inner working angle (IWA) capabilities in the L' band. The L' band is a sweet spot for high contrast coronagraphy since the planet-to-star brightness ratio is favorable, while the Strehl ratio is naturally higher. Methods. An annular groove phase mask (AGPM) vector vortex coronagraph optimized for the L' band, made from diamond subwavelength gratings was manufactured and qualified in the lab. The AGPM enables high contrast imaging at very small IWA, potentially being the key to unexplored discovery space. Results. Here we present the installation and successful on-sky tests of an L'-band AGPM coronagraph on NACO. Using angular differential imaging, which is well suited to the rotational symmetry of the AGPM, we demonstrated a \Delta L' > 7.5 mag contrast from an IWA ~ 0".09 onwards, during average seeing conditions, and for total integration times of a few hundred seconds. [less ▲]

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See detailThe twofold debris disk around HD 113766 A. Warm and cold dust as seen with VLTI/MIDI and Herschel/PACS
Olofsson, Johan; Henning, Thomas; Nielbock, Markus et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 551

Context. Warm debris disks are a sub-sample of the large population of debris disks, and display excess emission in the mid-IR. Around solar-type stars, very few objects show emission features in mid-IR ... [more ▼]

Context. Warm debris disks are a sub-sample of the large population of debris disks, and display excess emission in the mid-IR. Around solar-type stars, very few objects show emission features in mid-IR spectroscopic observations, that are attributed to small, warm silicate dust grains. The origin of this warm dust can possibly be explained either by a collision between several bodies or by transport from an outer belt. Aims. We present and analyse new far-IR Herschel/Pacs observations, supplemented by ground-based data in the mid-IR (VLTI/Midi and VLT/Visir), for one of these rare systems: the 10-16 Myr old debris disk around HD 113766 A. Methods. We improve an existing model to account for these new observations, and better constrain the spatial distribution of the dust and its composition. Results. We underline the limitations of SED modelling and the need for spatially resolved observations. We find that the system is best described by an inner disk located within the first AU, well constrained by the Midi data, and an outer disk located between 9-13 AU. In the inner dust belt, our previous finding of Fe-rich crystalline olivine grains still holds. We do not observe time variability of the emission features over at least a 8 years time span, in a environment subjected to strong radiation pressure. Conclusions. The time stability of the emission features indicates that µm-sized dust grains are constantly replenished from the same reservoir, with a possible depletion of sub-µm-sized grains. We suggest that the emission features may arise from multi-composition aggregates. We discuss possible scenarios concerning the origin of the warm dust. The compactness of the innermost regions as probed by Midi, as well as the dust composition, suggest that we are witnessing the outcomes of (at least) one collision between partially differentiated bodies, in an environment possibly rendered unstable by terrestrial planetary formation. [less ▲]

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See detailThe 2.35 year itch of Cyg OB2 #9. II. Radio monitoring
Blomme, R.; Nazé, Yaël ULg; Volpi, D. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2013), 550

Cyg OB2 #9 is one of a small set of non-thermal radio emitting massive O-star binaries. The non-thermal radiation is due to synchrotron emission in the colliding-wind region. Cyg OB2 #9 was only recently ... [more ▼]

Cyg OB2 #9 is one of a small set of non-thermal radio emitting massive O-star binaries. The non-thermal radiation is due to synchrotron emission in the colliding-wind region. Cyg OB2 #9 was only recently discovered to be a binary system and a multiwavelength campaign was organized to study its 2011 periastron passage. We want to better determine the parameters of this system and model the wind-wind collision. This will lead to a better understanding of the Fermi mechanism that accelerates electrons up to relativistic speeds in shocks, and its occurrence in colliding-wind binaries. We report here on the results of the radio observations obtained in the monitoring campaign and present a simple model to interpret the data. We used the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA) radio interferometer to obtain 6 and 20 cm continuum fluxes during the Cyg OB2 #9 periastron passage in 2011. We introduce a simple model to solve the radiative transfer in the stellar winds and the colliding-wind region, and thus determine the expected behaviour of the radio light curve. The observed radio light curve shows a steep drop in flux sometime before periastron. The fluxes drop to a level that is comparable to the expected free-free emission from the stellar winds, suggesting that the non-thermal emitting region is completely hidden at that time. After periastron passage, the fluxes slowly increase. We use the asymmetry of the light curve to show that the primary has the stronger wind. This is somewhat unexpected if we use the astrophysical parameters based on theoretical calibrations. But it becomes entirely feasible if we take into account that a given spectral type – luminosity class combination covers a range of astrophysical parameters. The colliding-wind region also contributes to the free-free emission, which can help to explain the high values of the spectral index seen after periastron passage. Combining our data with older Very Large Array (VLA) data allows us to derive a period P = 860:0 3:7 days for this system. With this period, we update the orbital parameters that were derived in the first paper of this series. A simple model introduced to explain only the radio data already allows some constraints to be put on the parameters of this binary system. Future, more sophisticated, modelling that will also include optical, X-ray and interferometric information will provide even better constraints. [less ▲]

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See detailAn interferometric study of the Fomalhaut inner debris disk II. Keck Nuller mid-infrared observations
Mennesson, B.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Lebreton, J. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 763

We report on high contrast mid-infrared observations of Fomalhaut obtained with the Keck Interferometer Nuller (KIN) showing a small resolved excess over the level expected from the stellar photosphere ... [more ▼]

We report on high contrast mid-infrared observations of Fomalhaut obtained with the Keck Interferometer Nuller (KIN) showing a small resolved excess over the level expected from the stellar photosphere. The measured null excess has a mean value of 0.35% +/- 0.10% between 8 and 11 microns and increases from 8 to 13 microns. Given the small field of view of the instrument, the source of this marginal excess must be contained within 2AU of Fomalhaut. This result is reminiscent of previous VLTI K-band observations, which implied the presence of a ~ 0.88% excess, and argued that thermal emission from hot dusty grains located within 6 AU from Fomalhaut was the most plausible explanation. Using a parametric 2D radiative transfer code and a Bayesian analysis, we examine different dust disk structures to reproduce both the near and mid-infrared data simultaneously. While not a definitive explanation of the hot excess of Fomalhaut, our model suggests that the most likely inner few AU disk geometry consists of a two-component structure, with two different and spatially distinct grain populations. The 2 to 11 microns data are consistent with an inner hot ring of very small (~ 10 to 300 nm) carbon-rich grains concentrating around 0.1AU. The second dust population consists of larger grains (size of a few microns to a few tens of microns) located further out in a colder region where regular astronomical silicates could survive, with an inner edge around 1AU. From a dynamical point of view, the presence of the inner concentration of sub-micron sized grains is surprising, as such grains should be expelled from the inner planetary system by radiation pressure within only a few years. This could either point to some inordinate replenishment rates (e.g. many grazing comets coming from an outer reservoir) or to the existence of some braking mechanism preventing the grains from moving out. [less ▲]

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See detailThe 2.35 year itch of Cygnus OB2 #9. I. Optical and X-ray monitoring
Nazé, Yaël ULg; Mahy, Laurent ULg; Damerdji, Yassine ULg et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2012), 546

Context. Nonthermal radio emission in massive stars is expected to arise in wind-wind collisions occurring inside a binary system. One such case, the O-type star Cyg OB2 #9, was proven to be a binary only ... [more ▼]

Context. Nonthermal radio emission in massive stars is expected to arise in wind-wind collisions occurring inside a binary system. One such case, the O-type star Cyg OB2 #9, was proven to be a binary only four years ago, but the orbital parameters remained uncertain. The periastron passage of 2011 was the first one to be observable under good conditions since the discovery of binarity. <BR /> Aims: In this context, we have organized a large monitoring campaign to refine the orbital solution and to study the wind-wind collision. <BR /> Methods: This paper presents the analysis of optical spectroscopic data, as well as of a dedicated X-ray monitoring performed with Swift and XMM-Newton. <BR /> Results: In light of our refined orbital solution, Cyg OB2 #9 appears as a massive O+O binary with a long period and high eccentricity; its components (O5-5.5I for the primary and O3-4III for the secondary) have similar masses and similar luminosities. The new data also provide the first evidence that a wind-wind collision is present in the system. In the optical domain, the broad Hα line varies, displaying enhanced absorption and emission components at periastron. X-ray observations yield the unambiguous signature of an adiabatic collision, because as the stars approach periastron, the X-ray luminosity closely follows the 1/D variation expected in that case. The X-ray spectrum appears, however, slightly softer at periastron, which is probably related to winds colliding at slightly lower speeds at that time. <BR /> Conclusions: It is the first time that such a variation has been detected in O+O systems, and the first case where the wind-wind collision is found to remain adiabatic even at periastron passage. [less ▲]

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See detailHot circumstellar material resolved around β Pic with VLTI/PIONIER
Defrère, D.; Lebreton, J.; Le Bouquin, J.-B. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2012), 546

Aims: We aim at resolving the circumstellar environment around β Pic in the near-infrared in order to study the inner planetary system (<200 mas, i.e., ~4 AU). Methods: Precise interferometric fringe ... [more ▼]

Aims: We aim at resolving the circumstellar environment around β Pic in the near-infrared in order to study the inner planetary system (<200 mas, i.e., ~4 AU). Methods: Precise interferometric fringe visibility measurements were obtained over seven spectral channels dispersed across the H band with the four-telescope VLTI/PIONIER interferometer. Thorough analysis of interferometric data was performed to measure the stellar angular diameter and to search for circumstellar material. Results: We detected near-infrared circumstellar emission around β Pic that accounts for 1.37% ± 0.16% of the near-infrared stellar flux and that is located within the field-of-view of PIONIER (i.e., ~200 mas in radius). The flux ratio between this excess and the photosphere emission is shown to be stable over a period of 1 year and to vary only weakly across the H band, suggesting that the source is either very hot (≳1500 K) or dominated by the scattering of the stellar flux. In addition, we derive the limb-darkened angular diameter of β Pic with an unprecedented accuracy (θLD= 0.736 ± 0.019 mas). Conclusions: The presence of a small H-band excess originating in the vicinity of β Pic is revealed for the first time thanks to the high-precision visibilities enabled by VLTI/PIONIER. This excess emission is likely due to the scattering of stellar light by circumstellar dust and/or the thermal emission from a yet unknown population of hot dust, although hot gas emitting in the continuum cannot be firmly excluded. [less ▲]

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See detailHigh precision astrometry mission for the detection and characterization of nearby habitable planetary systems with the Nearby Earth Astrometric Telescope (NEAT)
Malbet, Fabien; Léger, Alain; Shao, Michael et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2012), 34(2), 385-413

A complete census of planetary systems around a volume-limited sample of solar-type stars (FGK dwarfs) in the Solar neighborhood (d ≤ 15 pc) with uniform sensitivity down to Earth-mass planets within ... [more ▼]

A complete census of planetary systems around a volume-limited sample of solar-type stars (FGK dwarfs) in the Solar neighborhood (d ≤ 15 pc) with uniform sensitivity down to Earth-mass planets within their Habitable Zones out to several AUs would be a major milestone in extrasolar planets astrophysics. This fundamental goal can be achieved with a mission concept such as NEAT—the Nearby Earth Astrometric Telescope. NEAT is designed to carry out space-borne extremely-high-precision astrometric measurements at the 0.05 μas (1 σ) accuracy level, sufficient to detect dynamical effects due to orbiting planets of mass even lower than Earth's around the nearest stars. Such a survey mission would provide the actual planetary masses and the full orbital geometry for all the components of the detected planetary systems down to the Earth-mass limit. The NEAT performance limits can be achieved by carrying out differential astrometry between the targets and a set of suitable reference stars in the field. The NEAT instrument design consists of an off-axis parabola single-mirror telescope (D = 1 m), a detector with a large field of view located 40 m away from the telescope and made of 8 small movable CCDs located around a fixed central CCD, and an interferometric calibration system monitoring dynamical Young's fringes originating from metrology fibers located at the primary mirror. The mission profile is driven by the fact that the two main modules of the payload, the telescope and the focal plane, must be located 40 m away leading to the choice of a formation flying option as the reference mission, and of a deployable boom option as an alternative choice. The proposed mission architecture relies on the use of two satellites, of about 700 kg each, operating at L2 for 5 years, flying in formation and offering a capability of more than 20,000 reconfigurations. The two satellites will be launched in a stacked configuration using a Soyuz ST launch vehicle. The NEAT primary science program will encompass an astrometric survey of our 200 closest F-, G- and K-type stellar neighbors, with an average of 50 visits each distributed over the nominal mission duration. The main survey operation will use approximately 70% of the mission lifetime. The remaining 30% of NEAT observing time might be allocated, for example, to improve the characterization of the architecture of selected planetary systems around nearby targets of specific interest (low-mass stars, young stars, etc.) discovered by Gaia, ground-based high-precision radial-velocity surveys, and other programs. With its exquisite, surgical astrometric precision, NEAT holds the promise to provide the first thorough census for Earth-mass planets around stars in the immediate vicinity of our Sun. [less ▲]

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See detailDesign, manufacturing, and performance analysis of mid-infrared achromatic half-wave plates with diamond subwavelength gratings
Delacroix, Christian ULg; Forsberg, Pontus; Karlsson, Mikael et al

in Applied Optics (2012), 51

In this paper, we present an elegant solution for creating robust monolithic achromatic half-wave plates (HWPs) for the infrared, based on the form birefringence of subwavelength gratings (SWGs) made out ... [more ▼]

In this paper, we present an elegant solution for creating robust monolithic achromatic half-wave plates (HWPs) for the infrared, based on the form birefringence of subwavelength gratings (SWGs) made out of diamond. We use the rigorous coupled wave analysis to design the gratings. Our analysis shows that diamond, besides its outstanding physical and mechanical properties, is a suitable substrate to manufacture mid-infrared HWPs, thanks to its high refractive index which allows etching SWGs with lower aspect ratio. Based on our optized design, we manufactured a diamond HWP for the 11-13.2 µm region, with an estimated mean retardance ~3.143 ± 0.061 rad (180.08 ± 3.51°). In addition, an antireflective grating was etched on the backside of the wave plate, allowing a total tansmittance between 89 and 95% over the band. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Exozodiacal Dust Problem for Direct Observations of Exo-Earths
Roberge, Aki; Chen, Christine H; Millan-Gabet, Rafael et al

in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific [=PASP] (2012), 124

Debris dust in the habitable zones of stars - otherwise known as exozodiacal dust - comes from extrasolar asteroids and comets and is thus an expected part of a planetary system. Background flux from the ... [more ▼]

Debris dust in the habitable zones of stars - otherwise known as exozodiacal dust - comes from extrasolar asteroids and comets and is thus an expected part of a planetary system. Background flux from the Solar System's zodiacal dust and the exozodiacal dust in the target system is likely to be the largest source of astrophysical noise in direct observations of terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars. Furthermore, dust structures like clumps, thought to be produced by dynamical interactions with exoplanets, are a possible source of confusion. In this paper, we qualitatively assess the primary impact of exozodical dust on high-contrast direct imaging at optical wavelengths, such as would be performed with a coronagraph. Then we present the sensitivity of previous, current, and near-term facilities to thermal emission from debris dust at all distances from nearby solar-type stars, as well as our current knowledge of dust levels from recent surveys. Finally, we address the other method of detecting debris dust, through high-contrast imaging in scattered light. This method is currently far less sensitive than thermal emission observations, but provides high spatial resolution for studying dust structures. This paper represents the first report of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG). [less ▲]

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See detailDirect imaging of extra-solar planets in star forming regions. Lessons learned from a false positive around IM Lup.
Mawet, Dimitri; Absil, Olivier ULg; Riaud, Pierre et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2012), 544

Context. Most planet imagers consist of ground-based adaptive optics coronagraphic cameras which are currently limited in contrast, sensitivity and astrometric precision, but advantageously observe in the ... [more ▼]

Context. Most planet imagers consist of ground-based adaptive optics coronagraphic cameras which are currently limited in contrast, sensitivity and astrometric precision, but advantageously observe in the near-infrared window (1 - 5 µm). Because of these practical limitations, our current observational aim at detecting and characterizing planets puts heavy constraints on target selection, observing strategies, data reduction, and follow-up. Most surveys so far have thus targeted very young systems (1 - 100Myr) to catch the putative remnant thermal radiation of giant planets, which peaks in the near-infrared. They also favor systems in the solar neighborhood (d < 80 pc), which eases angular resolution requirements but also ensures a good knowledge of the distance and proper motion, which are critical to secure the planet status, and enable any subsequent characterization. Aims. Because of their youth, it is very tempting to target the nearby star forming regions, which are typically twice as far as the bulk of objects usually combed for planets by direct imaging. Probing these very interesting reservoirs in practice sets additional constraints that we review in this paper by presenting the planet search that we initiated in 2008 around the disk-bearing T Tauri star IM Lup, which is part of the Lupus star forming region (140-190 pc). Methods. We show and discuss why age determination, the choice of evolutionary model for both the central star and the planet, precise knowledge of the host star proper motion, relative or absolute (between different instruments) astrometric accuracy (including plate scale calibration), and patience are the key ingredients for exoplanet searches around more distant young stars. Results. Unfortunately, most of the time, precision and perseverance are not paying off: we discovered a candidate companion around IM Lup in 2008, which we report here to be a false positive event. We nevertheless review in details the lessons learned from our endeavor, and additionally present the best detection limits ever calculated for IM Lup. We also accessorily report on the successful use of innovative data reduction techniques, such as the damped-LOCI and iterative roll subtraction. [less ▲]

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