Comets and Asteroids

Exocomets: A Spectroscopic Survey

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 25, 2020
Filed under
Exocomets: A Spectroscopic Survey

While exoplanets are now routinely detected, the detection of small bodies in extrasolar systems remains challenging. Since the discovery of sporadic events interpreted as exocomets (Falling Evaporating Bodies) around β Pic in the early 80s, only ∼20 stars have been reported to host exocomet-like events.

We aim to expand the sample of known exocomet-host stars, as well as to monitor the hot-gas environment around stars with previously known exocometary activity. We have obtained high-resolution optical spectra of a heterogeneous sample of 117 main-sequence stars in the spectral type range from B8 to G8. The data have been collected in 14 observing campaigns expanding over 2 years from both hemispheres.

We have analysed the Ca ii K&H and Na i D lines in order to search for non-photospheric absorptions originated in the circumstellar environment, and for variable events that could be caused by outgassing of exocomet-like bodies. We have detected non-photospheric absorptions towards 50% of the sample, attributing a circumstellar origin to half of the detections (i.e. 26% of the sample). Hot circumstellar gas is detected in the metallic lines inspected via narrow stable absorptions, and/or variable blue-/red-shifted absorption events. Such variable events were found in 18 stars in the Ca ii and/or Na i lines; 6 of them are reported in the context of this work for the first time.

In some cases the variations we report in the Ca ii K line are similar to those observed in β Pic. While we do not find a significant trend with the age or location of the stars, we do find that the probability of finding CS gas in stars with larger vsin i is higher. We also find a weak trend with the presence of near-infrared excess, and with anomalous (λ Boo-like) abundances, but this would require confirmation by expanding the sample.

I. Rebollido, C. Eiroa, B. Montesinos, J. Maldonado, E. Villaver, O. Absil, A. Bayo, H. Canovas, A. Carmona, Ch. Chen, S. Ertel, Th. Henning, D. P. Iglesias, R. Launhardt, R. Liseau, G. Meeus, A. Moór, A. Mora, J. Olofsson, G. Rauw, P. Riviere-Marichalar
(Submitted on 24 Mar 2020)
Comments: Accepted in A&A on March 23rd 2020
Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)
Cite as: arXiv:2003.11084 [astro-ph.SR] (or arXiv:2003.11084v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)
Submission history
From: Isabel Rebollido
[v1] Tue, 24 Mar 2020 19:24:31 UTC (35,084 KB)
Astrobiology, astrochemistry

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