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See detailA near-infrared interferometric survey of debris disc stars. II. CHARA/FLUOR observations of six early-type dwarfs
Absil, Olivier ULg; di Folco, E.; Mérand, A. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2008), 487

Aims. We aim at directly detecting the presence of optically thin circumstellar dust emission within the terrestrial planetary zone around main sequence stars known to harbour cold debris discs. The ... [more ▼]

Aims. We aim at directly detecting the presence of optically thin circumstellar dust emission within the terrestrial planetary zone around main sequence stars known to harbour cold debris discs. The present study focuses on a sample of six bright A- and early F-type stars. Methods: High-precision interferometric observations have been obtained in the near-infrared K band with the FLUOR instrument installed on the CHARA Array. The measured squared visibilities are compared to the expected visibility of the stellar photospheres based on theoretical photospheric models taking into account rotational distortion. We search for potential visibility reduction at short baselines, a direct piece of evidence for resolved circumstellar emission. Results: Our observations bring to light the presence of resolved circumstellar emission around one of the six target stars (zeta Aql) at the 5sigma level. The morphology of the emission source cannot be directly constrained because of the sparse spatial frequency sampling of our interferometric data. Using complementary adaptive optics observations and radial velocity measurements, we find that the presence of a low-mass companion is a likely origin for the excess emission. The potential companion is characterised by a K-band contrast of four magnitudes. It has a most probable mass of about 0.6~Msun and is expected to orbit between about 5.5 AU and 8 AU from its host star assuming a purely circular orbit. Nevertheless, by adjusting a physical debris disc model to the observed Spectral Energy Distribution of the zeta Aql system, we also show that the presence of hot dust within 10 AU from zeta Aql, producing a total thermal emission equal to 1.69 ± 0.31% of the photospheric flux in the K band, is another viable explanation for the observed near-infrared excess. Our re-interpretation of archival near- to far-infrared photometric measurements shows however that cold dust is not present around zeta Aql at the sensitivity limit of the IRS and MIPS instruments onboard Spitzer, and urges us to remove zeta Aql from the category of bona fide debris disc stars. Conclusions: The hot debris disc around Vega (Absil et al. 2006) currently remains our only secure resolved detection within the context of this survey, with six genuine early-type debris disc stars observed so far. Further observations will be needed to assess whether zeta Aql also belongs to this hot debris disc category. Partly based on observations collected at the European Southern Observatory, La Silla, Chile, under program IDs 073.C-0733, 077.C-0295 and 080.C-0712. [less ▲]

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