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See detailFirst-light LBT Nulling Interferometric Observations: Warm Exozodiacal Dust Resolved within a Few AU of eta Crv
Defrere, D.; Hinz, P. M.; Skemer, A. J. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2015), 799

We report on the first nulling interferometric observations with the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI), resolving the N' band (9.81-12.41 μm) emission around the nearby main-sequence star η ... [more ▼]

We report on the first nulling interferometric observations with the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI), resolving the N' band (9.81-12.41 μm) emission around the nearby main-sequence star η Crv (F2V, 1-2 Gyr). The measured source null depth amounts to 4.40% ± 0.35% over a field-of-view of 140 mas in radius (~2.6 AU for the distance of η Crv) and shows no significant variation over 35° of sky rotation. This relatively low null is unexpected given the total disk to star flux ratio measured by the Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph (IRS; ~23% across the N' band), suggesting that a significant fraction of the dust lies within the central nulled response of the LBTI (79 mas or 1.4 AU). Modeling of the warm disk shows that it cannot resemble a scaled version of the solar zodiacal cloud unless it is almost perpendicular to the outer disk imaged by Herschel. It is more likely that the inner and outer disks are coplanar and the warm dust is located at a distance of 0.5-1.0 AU, significantly closer than previously predicted by models of the IRS spectrum (~3 AU). The predicted disk sizes can be reconciled if the warm disk is not centrosymmetric, or if the dust particles are dominated by very small grains. Both possibilities hint that a recent collision has produced much of the dust. Finally, we discuss the implications for the presence of dust for the distance where the insolation is the same as Earth's (2.3 AU). [less ▲]

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See detailConstraining the Exozodiacal Luminosity Function of Main-sequence Stars: Complete Results from the Keck Nuller Mid-infrared Surveys
Mennesson, B.; Millan-Gabet, R.; Serabyn, E. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 797

Forty-seven nearby main-sequence stars were surveyed with the Keck Interferometer mid-infrared Nulling instrument (KIN) between 2008 and 2011, searching for faint resolved emission from exozodiacal dust ... [more ▼]

Forty-seven nearby main-sequence stars were surveyed with the Keck Interferometer mid-infrared Nulling instrument (KIN) between 2008 and 2011, searching for faint resolved emission from exozodiacal dust. Observations of a subset of the sample have already been reported, focusing essentially on stars with no previously known dust. Here we extend this previous analysis to the whole KIN sample, including 22 more stars with known near- and/or far-infrared excesses. In addition to an analysis similar to that of the first paper of this series, which was restricted to the 8-9 mum spectral region, we present measurements obtained in all 10 spectral channels covering the 8-13 mum instrumental bandwidth. Based on the 8-9 mum data alone, which provide the highest signal-to-noise measurements, only one star shows a large excess imputable to dust emission (eta Crv), while four more show a significant (>3sigma) excess: beta Leo, beta UMa, zeta Lep, and gamma Oph. Overall, excesses detected by KIN are more frequent around A-type stars than later spectral types. A statistical analysis of the measurements further indicates that stars with known far-infrared (lambda >= 70 mum) excesses have higher exozodiacal emission levels than stars with no previous indication of a cold outer disk. This statistical trend is observed regardless of spectral type and points to a dynamical connection between the inner (zodi-like) and outer (Kuiper-Belt-like) dust populations. The measured levels for such stars are clustering close to the KIN detection limit of a few hundred zodis and are indeed consistent with those expected from a populat [less ▲]

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See detailFundamental Limitations of High Contrast Imaging Set by Small Sample Statistics
Mawet, D.; Milli, J.; Wahhaj, Z. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 792

In this paper, we review the impact of small sample statistics on detection thresholds and corresponding confidence levels (CLs) in high-contrast imaging at small angles. When looking close to the star ... [more ▼]

In this paper, we review the impact of small sample statistics on detection thresholds and corresponding confidence levels (CLs) in high-contrast imaging at small angles. When looking close to the star, the number of resolution elements decreases rapidly toward small angles. This reduction of the number of degrees of freedom dramatically affects CLs and false alarm probabilities. Naively using the same ideal hypothesis and methods as for larger separations, which are well understood and commonly assume Gaussian noise, can yield up to one order of magnitude error in contrast estimations at fixed CL. The statistical penalty exponentially increases toward very small inner working angles. Even at 5-10 resolution elements from the star, false alarm probabilities can be significantly higher than expected. Here we present a rigorous statistical analysis that ensures robustness of the CL, but also imposes a substantial limitation on corresponding achievable detection limits (thus contrast) at small angles. This unavoidable fundamental statistical effect has a significant impact on current coronagraphic and future high-contrast imagers. Finally, the paper concludes with practical recommendations to account for small number statistics when computing the sensitivity to companions at small angles and when exploiting the results of direct imaging planet surveys. [less ▲]

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See detailPrecision Asteroseismology of the Pulsating White Dwarf GD 1212 Using a Two-wheel-controlled Kepler Spacecraft
Hermes, J.J.; Charpinet, Stéphane; Barclay, Thomas et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 789

We present a preliminary analysis of the cool pulsating white dwarf (WD) GD 1212, enabled by more than 11.5 days of space-based photometry obtained during an engineering test of the two-reaction-wheel ... [more ▼]

We present a preliminary analysis of the cool pulsating white dwarf (WD) GD 1212, enabled by more than 11.5 days of space-based photometry obtained during an engineering test of the two-reaction-wheel-controlled Kepler spacecraft. We detect at least 19 independent pulsation modes, ranging from 828.2-1220.8 s, and at least 17 nonlinear combination frequencies of those independent pulsations. Our longest uninterrupted light curve, 9.0 days in length, evidences coherent difference frequencies at periods inaccessible from the ground, up to 14.5 hr, the longest-period signals ever detected in a pulsating WD. These results mark some of the first science to come from a two-wheel-controlled Kepler spacecraft, proving the capability for unprecedented discoveries afforded by extending Kepler observations to the ecliptic. [less ▲]

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See detailExtremely Organic-rich Coma of Comet C/2010 G2 (Hill) during its Outburst in 2012
Kawakita, Hideyo; Dello Russo, Neil; Vervack, Ron et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 788

We performed high-dispersion near-infrared spectroscopic observations of comet C/2010 G2 (Hill) at 2.5 AU from the Sun using NIRSPEC (R ≈ 25,000) at the Keck II Telescope on UT 2012 January 9 and 10 ... [more ▼]

We performed high-dispersion near-infrared spectroscopic observations of comet C/2010 G2 (Hill) at 2.5 AU from the Sun using NIRSPEC (R ≈ 25,000) at the Keck II Telescope on UT 2012 January 9 and 10, about a week after an outburst had occurred. Over the two nights of our observations, prominent emission lines of CH[SUB]4[/SUB] and C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]6[/SUB], along with weaker emission lines of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O, HCN, CH[SUB]3[/SUB]OH, and CO were detected. The gas production rate of CO was comparable to that of H[SUB]2[/SUB]O during the outburst. The mixing ratios of CO, HCN, CH[SUB]4[/SUB], C[SUB]2[/SUB]H[SUB]6[/SUB], and CH[SUB]3[/SUB]OH with respect to H[SUB]2[/SUB]O were higher than those for normal comets by a factor of five or more. The enrichment of CO and CH[SUB]4[/SUB] in comet Hill suggests that the sublimation of these hypervolatiles sustained the outburst of the comet. Some fraction of water in the inner coma might exist as icy grains that were likely ejected from nucleus by the sublimation of hypervolatiles. Mixing ratios of volatiles in comet Hill are indicative of the interstellar heritage without significant alteration in the solar nebula. [less ▲]

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See detailTransit confirmation and improved stellar and planet parameters for the super-Earth HD 97658 b and its host star
Van Grootel, Valérie ULg; Gillon, Michaël ULg; Valencia, D. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 786

Super-Earths transiting nearby bright stars are key objects that simultaneously allow for accurate measurements of both their mass and radius, providing essential constraints on their internal composition ... [more ▼]

Super-Earths transiting nearby bright stars are key objects that simultaneously allow for accurate measurements of both their mass and radius, providing essential constraints on their internal composition. We present here the confirmation, based on Spitzer transit observations, that the super-Earth HD 97658 b transits its host star. HD 97658 is a low-mass ($M_*=0.77\pm0.05\,M_{\odot}$) K1 dwarf, as determined from the Hipparcos parallax and stellar evolution modeling. To constrain the planet parameters, we carry out Bayesian global analyses of Keck-HIRES radial velocities, and MOST and Spitzer photometry. HD 97658 b is a massive ($M_P=7.55^{+0.83}_{-0.79} M_{\oplus}$) and large ($R_{P} = 2.247^{+0.098}_{-0.095} R_{\oplus}$ at 4.5 $\mu$m) super-Earth. We investigate the possible internal compositions for HD 97658 b. Our results indicate a large rocky component, by at least 60% by mass, and very little H-He components, at most 2% by mass. We also discuss how future asteroseismic observations can improve the knowledge of the HD 97658 system, in particular by constraining its age. Orbiting a bright host star, HD 97658 b will be a key target for coming space missions TESS, CHEOPS, PLATO, and also JWST, to characterize thoroughly its structure and atmosphere. [less ▲]

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See detailThe BANANA Project. V. Misaligned and Precessing Stellar Rotation Axes in CV Velorum
Albrecht, Simon; Winn, Joshua N.; Torres, Guillermo et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 785

As part of the Binaries Are Not Always Neatly Aligned project (BANANA), we have found that the eclipsing binary CV Velorum has misaligned rotation axes. Based on our analysis of the Rossiter-McLaughlin ... [more ▼]

As part of the Binaries Are Not Always Neatly Aligned project (BANANA), we have found that the eclipsing binary CV Velorum has misaligned rotation axes. Based on our analysis of the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect, we find sky-projected spin-orbit angles of β[SUB]p[/SUB] = -52° ± 6° and β[SUB]s[/SUB] = 3° ± 7° for the primary and secondary stars (B2.5V + B2.5V, P = 6.9 days). We combine this information with several measurements of changing projected stellar rotation speeds (vsin i [SUB]sstarf[/SUB]) over the last 30 yr, leading to a model in which the primary star's obliquity is ≈65°, and its spin axis precesses around the total angular momentum vector with a period of about 140 yr. The geometry of the secondary star is less clear, although a significant obliquity is also implicated by the observed time variations in the vsin i [SUB]sstarf[/SUB]. By integrating the secular tidal evolution equations backward in time, we find that the system could have evolved from a state of even stronger misalignment similar to DI Herculis, a younger but otherwise comparable binary. Based on observations made with ESOs 2.2 m Telescopes at the La Silla Paranal Observatory under programme ID 084.C-1008 and under MPIA guaranteed time. [less ▲]

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See detailA Super-Jupiter orbiting a late-type star: A refined analysis of microlensing event OGLE-2012-BLG-0406
Tsapras, Y.; Choi, J.-Y.; Street, R. A. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 782

We present a detailed analysis of survey and follow-up observations of microlensing event OGLE-2012-BLG-0406 based on data obtained from 10 different observatories. Intensive coverage of the lightcurve ... [more ▼]

We present a detailed analysis of survey and follow-up observations of microlensing event OGLE-2012-BLG-0406 based on data obtained from 10 different observatories. Intensive coverage of the lightcurve, especially the perturbation part, allowed us to accurately measure the parallax effect and lens orbital motion. Combining our measurement of the lens parallax with the angular Einstein radius determined from finite-source effects, we estimate the physical parameters of the lens system. We find that the event was caused by a $2.73\pm 0.43\ M_{\rm J}$ planet orbiting a $0.44\pm 0.07\ M_{\odot}$ early M-type star. The distance to the lens is $4.97\pm 0.29$\ kpc and the projected separation between the host star and its planet at the time of the event is $3.45\pm 0.26$ AU. We find that the additional coverage provided by follow-up observations, especially during the planetary perturbation, leads to a more accurate determination of the physical parameters of the lens. [less ▲]

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See detailExtremely Organic-rich Coma of Comet C/2010 G2 (Hill) during its Outburst in 201
Kawakita, H; Dello Russo; Vervack, R et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014)

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See detailA Monitoring Campaign for Luhman 16AB. I. Detection of Resolved Near-Infrared Spectroscopic Variability
Burgasser, A. J.; Gillon, Michaël ULg; Faherty, J. K. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 785

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See detailThe Size, Shape, Albedo, Density, and Atmospheric Limit of Transneptunian Object (50000) Quaoar from Multi-chord Stellar Occultations
Braga-Ribas, F.; Sicardy, B.; Ortiz, J. L. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 773

We present results derived from the first multi-chord stellar occultations by the transneptunian object (50000) Quaoar, observed on 2011 May 4 and 2012 February 17, and from a single-chord occultation ... [more ▼]

We present results derived from the first multi-chord stellar occultations by the transneptunian object (50000) Quaoar, observed on 2011 May 4 and 2012 February 17, and from a single-chord occultation observed on 2012 October 15. If the timing of the five chords obtained in 2011 were correct, then Quaoar would possess topographic features (crater or mountain) that would be too large for a body of this mass. An alternative model consists in applying time shifts to some chords to account for possible timing errors. Satisfactory elliptical fits to the chords are then possible, yielding an equivalent radius R [SUB]equiv[/SUB] = 555 ± 2.5 km and geometric visual albedo p[SUB]V[/SUB] = 0.109 ± 0.007. Assuming that Quaoar is a Maclaurin spheroid with an indeterminate polar aspect angle, we derive a true oblateness of \epsilon = 0.087^{+0.0268}_{-0.0175}, an equatorial radius of 569^{+24}_{-17} km, and a density of 1.99 ± 0.46 g cm[SUP]–3[/SUP]. The orientation of our preferred solution in the plane of the sky implies that Quaoar's satellite Weywot cannot have an equatorial orbit. Finally, we detect no global atmosphere around Quaoar, considering a pressure upper limit of about 20 nbar for a pure methane atmosphere. [less ▲]

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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 detailMOA-2010-BLG-311: A planetary candidate below the threshold of reliable detection
Yee, J. C.; Hung, L.-W.; Bond, I. A. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 769(1), 77

We analyze MOA-2010-BLG-311, a high magnification (A_max>600) microlensing event with complete data coverage over the peak, making it very sensitive to planetary signals. We fit this event with both a ... [more ▼]

We analyze MOA-2010-BLG-311, a high magnification (A_max>600) microlensing event with complete data coverage over the peak, making it very sensitive to planetary signals. We fit this event with both a point lens and a 2-body lens model and find that the 2-body lens model is a better fit but with only Delta chi^2~140. The preferred mass ratio between the lens star and its companion is $q=10^(-3.7+/-0.1), placing the candidate companion in the planetary regime. Despite the formal significance of the planet, we show that because of systematics in the data the evidence for a planetary companion to the lens is too tenuous to claim a secure detection. When combined with analyses of other high-magnification events, this event helps empirically define the threshold for reliable planet detection in high-magnification events, which remains an open question. [less ▲]

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See detailMicrolensing Discovery of a Population of Very Tight, Very Low Mass Binary Brown Dwarfs
Choi, J.-Y.; Han, C.; Udalski, A. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 768

Although many models have been proposed, the physical mechanisms responsible for the formation of low-mass brown dwarfs (BDs) are poorly understood. The multiplicity properties and minimum mass of the BD ... [more ▼]

Although many models have been proposed, the physical mechanisms responsible for the formation of low-mass brown dwarfs (BDs) are poorly understood. The multiplicity properties and minimum mass of the BD mass function provide critical empirical diagnostics of these mechanisms. We present the discovery via gravitational microlensing of two very low mass, very tight binary systems. These binaries have directly and precisely measured total system masses of 0.025 M [SUB]⊙[/SUB] and 0.034 M [SUB]⊙[/SUB], and projected separations of 0.31 AU and 0.19 AU, making them the lowest-mass and tightest field BD binaries known. The discovery of a population of such binaries indicates that BD binaries can robustly form at least down to masses of ~0.02 M [SUB]⊙[/SUB]. Future microlensing surveys will measure a mass-selected sample of BD binary systems, which can then be directly compared to similar samples of stellar binaries. [less ▲]

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See detailTesting Convective-core Overshooting Using Period Spacings of Dipole Modes in Red Giants
Montalbán, J.; Miglio, A.; Noels-Grötsch, Arlette ULg et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 766

Uncertainties on central mixing in main-sequence (MS) and core He-burning (He-B) phases affect key predictions of stellar evolution such as late evolutionary phases, chemical enrichment, ages, etc. We ... [more ▼]

Uncertainties on central mixing in main-sequence (MS) and core He-burning (He-B) phases affect key predictions of stellar evolution such as late evolutionary phases, chemical enrichment, ages, etc. We propose a test of the extension of extra-mixing in two relevant evolutionary phases based on period spacing (ΔP) of solar-like oscillating giants. From stellar models and their corresponding adiabatic frequencies (respectively, computed with ATON and LOSC codes), we provide the first predictions of the observable ΔP for stars in the red giant branch and in the red clump (RC). We find (1) a clear correlation between ΔP and the mass of the helium core (M [SUB]He[/SUB]); the latter in intermediate-mass stars depends on the MS overshooting, and hence it can be used to set constraints on extra-mixing during MS when coupled with chemical composition; and (2) a linear dependence of the average value of the asymptotic period spacing (langΔPrang[SUB] a [/SUB]) on the size of the convective core during the He-B phase. A first comparison with the inferred asymptotic period spacing for Kepler RC stars also suggests the need for extra-mixing during this phase, as evinced from other observational facts. [less ▲]

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See detailDiscovery of X-Ray Emission from Young Suns in the Small Magellanic Cloud
Oskinova, L. M.; Sun, W.; Evans, C. J. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 765

We report the discovery of extended X-ray emission within the young star cluster NGC 602a in the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) based on observations obtained with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory ... [more ▼]

We report the discovery of extended X-ray emission within the young star cluster NGC 602a in the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) based on observations obtained with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. X-ray emission is detected from the cluster core area with the highest stellar density and from a dusty ridge surrounding the H II region. We use a census of massive stars in the cluster to demonstrate that a cluster wind or wind-blown bubble is unlikely to provide a significant contribution to the X-ray emission detected from the central area of the cluster. We therefore suggest that X-ray emission at the cluster core originates from an ensemble of low- and solar-mass pre-main-sequence (PMS) stars, each of which would be too weak in X-rays to be detected individually. We attribute the X-ray emission from the dusty ridge to the embedded tight cluster of the newborn stars known in this area from infrared studies. Assuming that the levels of X-ray activity in young stars in the low-metallicity environment of NGC 602a are comparable to their Galactic counterparts, then the detected spatial distribution, spectral properties, and level of X-ray emission are largely consistent with those expected from low- and solar-mass PMS stars and young stellar objects (YSOs). This is the first discovery of X-ray emission attributable to PMS stars and YSOs in the SMC, which suggests that the accretion and dynamo processes in young, low-mass objects in the SMC resemble those in the Galaxy. [less ▲]

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See detailA Detailed X-Ray Investigation of ζ Puppis. II. The Variability on Short and Long Timescales
Nazé, Yaël ULg; Oskinova, Lidia M.; Gosset, Eric ULg

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 763

Stellar winds are a crucial component of massive stars, but their exact properties still remain uncertain. To shed some light on this subject, we have analyzed an exceptional set of X-ray observations of ... [more ▼]

Stellar winds are a crucial component of massive stars, but their exact properties still remain uncertain. To shed some light on this subject, we have analyzed an exceptional set of X-ray observations of ζ Puppis, one of the closest and brightest massive stars. The sensitive light curves that were derived reveal two major results. On the one hand, a slow modulation of the X-ray flux (with a relative amplitude of up to 15% over 16 hr in the 0.3-4.0 keV band) is detected. Its characteristic timescale cannot be determined with precision, but amounts from one to several days. It could be related to corotating interaction regions, known to exist in ζ Puppis from UV observations. Hour-long changes, linked to flares or to the pulsation activity, are not observed in the last decade covered by the XMM observations; the 17 hr tentative period, previously reported in a ROSAT analysis, is not confirmed either and is thus transient, at best. On the other hand, short-term changes are surprisingly small (<1% relative amplitude for the total energy band). In fact, they are compatible solely with the presence of Poisson noise in the data. This surprisingly low level of short-term variability, in view of the embedded wind-shock origin, requires a very high fragmentation of the stellar wind, for both absorbing and emitting features (>10[SUP]5[/SUP] parcels, comparing with a two-dimensional wind model). This is the first time that constraints have been placed on the number of clumps in an O-type star wind and from X-ray observations. Based on observations collected with XMM-Newton, an ESA Science Mission with instruments and contributions directly funded by ESA Member States and the USA (NASA). [less ▲]

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See detailMOA-2010-BLG-523: "Failed Planet" = RS CVn Star
Gould, A.; Yee, J. C.; Bond, I. A. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013), 763

The Galactic bulge source MOA-2010-BLG-523S exhibited short-term deviations from a standard microlensing light curve near the peak of an A [SUB]max[/SUB] ~ 265 high-magnification microlensing event. The ... [more ▼]

The Galactic bulge source MOA-2010-BLG-523S exhibited short-term deviations from a standard microlensing light curve near the peak of an A [SUB]max[/SUB] ~ 265 high-magnification microlensing event. The deviations originally seemed consistent with expectations for a planetary companion to the principal lens. We combine long-term photometric monitoring with a previously published high-resolution spectrum taken near peak to demonstrate that this is an RS CVn variable, so that planetary microlensing is not required to explain the light-curve deviations. This is the first spectroscopically confirmed RS CVn star discovered in the Galactic bulge. Based on observations made with the European Southern Observatory telescopes, Program ID 85.B-0399(I). [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 detailSpitzer Observations of GJ3470b: a Very Low-density Neptune-size Planet Orbiting a Metal-rich M dwarf
Demory, Brice-Olivier; Torres, Guillermo; Neves, Vasco et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2013)

We present Spitzer/IRAC 4.5-micron transit photometry of GJ3470b, a Neptune-size planet orbiting a M1.5 dwarf star with a 3.3-day period recently discovered in the course of the HARPS M-dwarf survey. We ... [more ▼]

We present Spitzer/IRAC 4.5-micron transit photometry of GJ3470b, a Neptune-size planet orbiting a M1.5 dwarf star with a 3.3-day period recently discovered in the course of the HARPS M-dwarf survey. We refine the stellar parameters by employing purely empirical mass-luminosity and surface brightness relations constrained by our updated value for the mean stellar density, and additional information from new near-infrared spectroscopic observations. We derive a stellar mass of M_star = 0.539+0.047-0.043 M_sun and a radius of R_star = 0.568+0.037-0.031 R_sun. We determine the host star of GJ3470b to be metal-rich, with a metallicity of [Fe/H] = +0.20 +/- 0.10 and an effective temperature of Teff = 3600 +/- 100 K. The revised stellar parameters yield a planetary radius R_pl = 4.83+0.22-0.21 R_Earth that is 13 percent larger than the value previously reported in the literature. We find a planetary mass M_pl = 13.9+1.5-1.4 M_Earth that translates to a very low planetary density, rho_pl = 0.72+0.13-0.12 gcm-3, which is 33% smaller than the original value. With a mean density half of that of GJ436b, GJ3470b is an example of a very low-density low-mass planet, similar to Kepler-11d, Kepler-11e, and Kepler-18c but orbiting a much brighter nearby star that is more conducive to follow-up studies. [less ▲]

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