Astronomy & Telescopes

JWST/NIRCam Coronagraphy of the Young Planet-hosting Debris Disk AU Microscopii

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
August 8, 2023
Filed under , , , , ,
JWST/NIRCam Coronagraphy of the Young Planet-hosting Debris Disk AU Microscopii
Starlight-subtracted and roll-combined final JWST/NIRCam images of AU Mic in both F356W (top) and F444W (bottom). The images have been oriented such that the assumed disk major axis is parallel to the x-axis. To highlight the relative brightness of the disk at F356W, the images are displayed with the same linear color stretch. Both images have been smoothed with a σ = 0.5 pixel gaussian for presentation, and are displayed within a 10′′ × 3. ′′5 FOV. The approximate coronagraphic inner working angle is indicated by the dashed black circle, while the approximate position of the occulted star is marked with a white star symbol. — astro-ph.EP

High-contrast imaging of debris disk systems permits us to assess the composition and size distribution of circumstellar dust, to probe recent dynamical histories, and to directly detect and characterize embedded exoplanets.

Observations of these systems in the infrared beyond 2–3 μm promise access to both extremely favorable planet contrasts and numerous scattered-light spectral features — but have typically been inhibited by the brightness of the sky at these wavelengths. We present coronagraphy of the AU Microscopii (AU Mic) system using JWST’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) in two filters spanning 3–5 μm. These data provide the first images of the system’s famous debris disk at these wavelengths and permit additional constraints on its properties and morphology.

Conducting a deep search for companions in these data, we do not identify any compelling candidates. However, with sensitivity sufficient to recover planets as small as ∼0.1 Jupiter masses beyond ∼2′′ (∼20 au) with 5σ confidence, these data place significant constraints on any massive companions that might still remain at large separations and provide additional context for the compact, multi-planet system orbiting very close-in.

The observations presented here highlight NIRCam’s unique capabilities for probing similar disks in this largely unexplored wavelength range, and provide the deepest direct imaging constraints on wide-orbit giant planets in this very well studied benchmark system.

Kellen Lawson, Joshua E. Schlieder, Jarron M. Leisenring, Ell Bogat, Charles A. Beichman, Geoffrey Bryden, András Gáspár, Tyler D. Groff, Michael W. McElwain, Michael R. Meyer, Thomas Barclay, Per Calissendorff, Matthew De Furio, Marie Ygouf, Anthony Boccaletti, Thomas P. Greene, John Krist, Peter Plavchan, Marcia J. Rieke, Thomas L. Roellig, John Stansberry, John P. Wisniewski, Erick T. Young

Comments: 27 pages, 14 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
Cite as: arXiv:2308.02486 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2308.02486v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Kellen Lawson
[v1] Fri, 4 Aug 2023 17:58:46 UTC (977 KB)
Astrobiology, Astrochemistry

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻