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See detailUnveiling the β Pictoris system, coupling high contrast imaging, interferometric, and radial velocity data
Lagrange, A. M.; Rubini, P.; Nowak, M. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2020), 642

Context. The nearby and young β Pictoris system hosts a well resolved disk, a directly imaged massive giant planet orbiting at ≃9 au, as well as an inner planet orbiting at ≃2.7 au, which was recently ... [more ▼]

Context. The nearby and young β Pictoris system hosts a well resolved disk, a directly imaged massive giant planet orbiting at ≃9 au, as well as an inner planet orbiting at ≃2.7 au, which was recently detected through radial velocity (RV). As such, it offers several unique opportunities for detailed studies of planetary system formation and early evolution. <BR /> Aims: We aim to further constrain the orbital and physical properties of β Pictoris b and c using a combination of high contrast imaging, long base-line interferometry, and RV data. We also predict the closest approaches or the transit times of both planets, and we constrain the presence of additional planets in the system. <BR /> Methods: We obtained six additional epochs of SPHERE data, six additional epochs of GRAVITY data, and five additional epochs of RV data. We combined these various types of data in a single Markov-chain Monte Carlo analysis to constrain the orbital parameters and masses of the two planets simultaneously. The analysis takes into account the gravitational influence of both planets on the star and hence their relative astrometry. Secondly, we used the RV and high contrast imaging data to derive the probabilities of presence of additional planets throughout the disk, and we tested the impact of absolute astrometry. <BR /> Results: The orbital properties of both planets are constrained with a semi-major axis of 9.8 ± 0.4 au and 2.7 ± 0.02 au for b and c, respectively, and eccentricities of 0.09 ± 0.1 and 0.27 ± 0.07, assuming the HIPPARCOS distance. We note that despite these low fitting error bars, the eccentricity of β Pictoris c might still be over-estimated. If no prior is provided on the mass of β Pictoris b, we obtain a very low value that is inconsistent with what is derived from brightness-mass models. When we set an evolutionary model motivated prior to the mass of β Pictoris b, we find a solution in the 10-11 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] range. Conversely, β Pictoris c's mass is well constrained, at 7.8 ± 0.4 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB], assuming both planets are on coplanar orbits. These values depend on the assumptions on the distance of the β Pictoris system. The absolute astrometry HIPPARCOS-Gaia data are consistent with the solutions presented here at the 2σ level, but these solutions are fully driven by the relative astrometry plus RV data. Finally, we derive unprecedented limits on the presence of additional planets in the disk. We can now exclude the presence of planets that are more massive than about 2.5 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] closer than 3 au, and more massive than 3.5 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] between 3 and 7.5 au. Beyond 7.5 au, we exclude the presence of planets that are more massive than 1-2 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB]. <BR /> Conclusions: Combining relative astrometry and RVs allows one to precisely constrain the orbital parameters of both planets and to give lower limits to potential additional planets throughout the disk. The mass of β Pictoris c is also well constrained, while additional RV data with appropriate observing strategies are required to properly constrain the mass of β Pictoris b. [less ▲]

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See detailDirect confirmation of the radial-velocity planet β Pictoris c
Nowak, M.; Lacour, S.; Lagrange, A.-M. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2020), 642

Context. Methods used to detect giant exoplanets can be broadly divided into two categories: indirect and direct. Indirect methods are more sensitive to planets with a small orbital period, whereas direct ... [more ▼]

Context. Methods used to detect giant exoplanets can be broadly divided into two categories: indirect and direct. Indirect methods are more sensitive to planets with a small orbital period, whereas direct detection is more sensitive to planets orbiting at a large distance from their host star. This dichotomy makes it difficult to combine the two techniques on a single target at once. <BR /> Aims: Simultaneous measurements made by direct and indirect techniques offer the possibility of determining the mass and luminosity of planets and a method of testing formation models. Here, we aim to show how long-baseline interferometric observations guided by radial-velocity can be used in such a way. <BR /> Methods: We observed the recently-discovered giant planet β Pictoris c with GRAVITY, mounted on the Very Large Telescope Interferometer. <BR /> Results: This study constitutes the first direct confirmation of a planet discovered through radial velocity. We find that the planet has a temperature of T = 1250 ± 50 K and a dynamical mass of M = 8.2 ± 0.8 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB]. At 18.5 ± 2.5 Myr, this puts β Pic c close to a `hot start' track, which is usually associated with formation via disk instability. Conversely, the planet orbits at a distance of 2.7 au, which is too close for disk instability to occur. The low apparent magnitude (M[SUB]K[/SUB] = 14.3 ± 0.1) favours a core accretion scenario. <BR /> Conclusions: We suggest that this apparent contradiction is a sign of hot core accretion, for example, due to the mass of the planetary core or the existence of a high-temperature accretion shock during formation. [less ▲]

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See detailRetrieving scattering clouds and disequilibrium chemistry in the atmosphere of HR 8799e
Mollière, P.; Stolker, T.; Lacour, S. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2020), 640

Context. Clouds are ubiquitous in exoplanet atmospheres and they represent a challenge for the model interpretation of their spectra. When generating a large number of model spectra, complex cloud models ... [more ▼]

Context. Clouds are ubiquitous in exoplanet atmospheres and they represent a challenge for the model interpretation of their spectra. When generating a large number of model spectra, complex cloud models often prove too costly numerically, whereas more efficient models may be overly simplified. <BR /> Aims: We aim to constrain the atmospheric properties of the directly imaged planet HR 8799e with a free retrieval approach. <BR /> Methods: We used our radiative transfer code petitRADTRANS for generating the spectra, which we coupled to the PyMultiNest tool. We added the effect of multiple scattering which is important for treating clouds. Two cloud model parameterizations are tested: the first incorporates the mixing and settling of condensates, the second simply parameterizes the functional form of the opacity. <BR /> Results: In mock retrievals, using an inadequate cloud model may result in atmospheres that are more isothermal and less cloudy than the input. Applying our framework on observations of HR 8799e made with the GPI, SPHERE, and GRAVITY, we find a cloudy atmosphere governed by disequilibrium chemistry, confirming previous analyses. We retrieve that C/O = 0.60[SUB]-0.08[/SUB][SUP]+0.07[/SUP]. Other models have not yet produced a well constrained C/O value for this planet. The retrieved C/O values of both cloud models are consistent, while leading to different atmospheric structures: either cloudy or more isothermal and less cloudy. Fitting the observations with the self-consistent Exo-REM model leads to comparable results, without constraining C/O. <BR /> Conclusions: With data from the most sensitive instruments, retrieval analyses of directly imaged planets are possible. The inferred C/O ratio of HR 8799e is independent of the cloud model and thus appears to be a robust. This C/O is consistent with stellar, which could indicate that the HR 8799e formed outside the CO[SUB]2[/SUB] or CO iceline. As it is the innermost planet of the system, this constraint could apply to all HR 8799 planets. [less ▲]

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See detailSearching for the near-infrared counterpart of Proxima c using multi-epoch high-contrast SPHERE data at VLT★
Gratton, R.; Zurlo, A.; Le Coroller, H. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2020), 638

Context. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun and it is known to host an Earth-like planet in its habitable zone; very recently a second candidate planet was proposed based on radial velocities ... [more ▼]

Context. Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun and it is known to host an Earth-like planet in its habitable zone; very recently a second candidate planet was proposed based on radial velocities. At quadrature, the expected projected separation of this new candidate is larger than 1 arcsec, making it a potentially interesting target for direct imaging. <BR /> Aims: While identification of the optical counterpart of this planet is expected to be very difficult, successful identification would allow for a detailed characterization of the closest planetary system. <BR /> Methods: We searched for a counterpart in SPHERE images acquired over four years through the SHINE survey. In order to account for the expected large orbital motion of the planet, we used a method that assumes the circular orbit obtained from radial velocities and exploits the sequence of observations acquired close to quadrature in the orbit. We checked this with a more general approach that considers Keplerian motion, called K-stacker. <BR /> Results: We did not obtain a clear detection. The best candidate has signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) = 6.1 in the combined image. A statistical test suggests that the probability that this detection is due to random fluctuation of noise is <1%, but this result depends on the assumption that the distribution of noise is uniform over the image, a fact that is likely not true. The position of this candidate and the orientation of its orbital plane fit well with observations in the ALMA 12 m array image. However, the astrometric signal expected from the orbit of the candidate we detected is 3σ away from the astrometric motion of Proxima as measured from early Gaia data. This, together with the unexpectedly high flux associated with our direct imaging detection, means we cannot confirm that our candidate is indeed Proxima c. <BR /> Conclusions: On the other hand, if confirmed, this would be the first observation in imaging of a planet discovered from radial velocities and the second planet (after Fomalhaut b) of reflecting circumplanetary material. Further confirmation observations should be done as soon as possible. <P />The reduced images are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to <A href="http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr">http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr</A> (ftp://130.79.128.5) or via <A href="http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/cat/J/A+A/638/A120">http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/cat/J/A+A/638/A120</A> <P />Based on data collected at the European Southern Observatory, Chile (ESO Programs 095.D-0309, 096.C-0241, 096.D-0252, 097.C-0865, 198.C-D0209, 099.D-0098, 099.C-0127. [less ▲]

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See detailSPHERE+: Imaging young Jupiters down to the snowline
Boccaletti, A.; Chauvin, G.; Mouillet, D. et al

E-print/Working paper (2020)

SPHERE (Beuzit et al,. 2019) has now been in operation at the VLT for more than 5 years, demonstrating a high level of performance. SPHERE has produced outstanding results using a variety of operating ... [more ▼]

SPHERE (Beuzit et al,. 2019) has now been in operation at the VLT for more than 5 years, demonstrating a high level of performance. SPHERE has produced outstanding results using a variety of operating modes, primarily in the field of direct imaging of exoplanetary systems, focusing on exoplanets as point sources and circumstellar disks as extended objects. The achievements obtained thus far with SPHERE (~200 refereed publications) in different areas (exoplanets, disks, solar system, stellar physics...) have motivated a large consortium to propose an even more ambitious set of science cases, and its corresponding technical implementation in the form of an upgrade. The SPHERE+ project capitalizes on the expertise and lessons learned from SPHERE to push high contrast imaging performance to its limits on the VLT 8m-telescope. The scientific program of SPHERE+ described in this document will open a new and compelling scientific window for the upcoming decade in strong synergy with ground-based facilities (VLT/I, ELT, ALMA, and SKA) and space missions (Gaia, JWST, PLATO and WFIRST). While SPHERE has sampled the outer parts of planetary systems beyond a few tens of AU, SPHERE+ will dig into the inner regions around stars to reveal and characterize by mean of spectroscopy the giant planet population down to the snow line. Building on SPHERE's scientific heritage and resounding success, SPHERE+ will be a dedicated survey instrument which will strengthen the leadership of ESO and the European community in the very competitive field of direct imaging of exoplanetary systems. With enhanced capabilities, it will enable an even broader diversity of science cases including the study of the solar system, the birth and death of stars and the exploration of the inner regions of active galactic nuclei. [less ▲]

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See detailPeering into the formation history of beta Pictoris b with VLTI/GRAVITY long baseline interferometry
Nowak, M.; Lacour, S.; Mollière, P. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2019), 633

Our objective is to estimate the C/O ratio in the atmosphere of beta Pictoris b and obtain an estimate of the dynamical mass of the planet, as well as to refine its orbital parameters using high-precision ... [more ▼]

Our objective is to estimate the C/O ratio in the atmosphere of beta Pictoris b and obtain an estimate of the dynamical mass of the planet, as well as to refine its orbital parameters using high-precision astrometry. We used the GRAVITY instrument with the four 8.2 m telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer to obtain K-band spectro-interferometric data on $\beta$ Pic b. We extracted a medium resolution (R=500) K-band spectrum of the planet and a high-precision astrometric position. We estimated the planetary C/O ratio using two different approaches (forward modeling and free retrieval) from two different codes (ExoREM and petitRADTRANS, respectively). Finally, we used a simplified model of two formation scenarios (gravitational collapse and core-accretion) to determine which can best explain the measured C/O ratio. Our new astrometry disfavors a circular orbit for $\beta$ Pic b ($e=0.15^{+0.05}_{-0.04}$). Combined with previous results and with Hipparcos/GAIA measurements, this astrometry points to a planet mass of $M = 12.7\pm{}2.2\,M_\mathrm{Jup}$. This value is compatible with the mass derived with the free-retrieval code petitRADTRANS using spectral data only. The forward modeling and free-retrieval approches yield very similar results regarding the atmosphere of beta Pic b. In particular, the C/O ratios derived with the two codes are identical ($0.43\pm{}0.05$ vs $0.43^{+0.04}_{-0.03}$). We argue that if the stellar C/O in $\beta$ Pic is Solar, then this combination of a very high mass and a low C/O ratio for the planet suggests a formation through core-accretion, with strong planetesimal enrichment. [less ▲]

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See detailSpatially Resolving the Quasar Broad Emission Line Region
Gravity Collaboration; Abuter, R.; Accardo, M. et al

in Messenger (2019), 178

The angular resolution of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) and the excellent sensitivity of GRAVITY have led to the first detection of spatially resolved kinematics of high velocity atomic ... [more ▼]

The angular resolution of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) and the excellent sensitivity of GRAVITY have led to the first detection of spatially resolved kinematics of high velocity atomic gas near an accreting super- massive black hole, revealing rotation on sub-parsec scales in the quasar 3C 273 at a distance of 550 Mpc. The observations can be explained as the result of circular orbits in a thick disc configuration around a 300 million solar mass black hole. Within an ongoing Large Programme, this capability will be used to study the kinematics of atomic gas and its relation to hot dust in a sample of quasars and Seyfert galaxies. We will measure a new radius-luminosity relation from spatially resolved data and test the current methods used to measure black hole mass in large surveys. [less ▲]

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See detailFirst direct detection of an exoplanet by optical interferometry. Astrometry and K-band spectroscopy of HR 8799 e
Gravity Collaboration; Lacour, S.; Nowak, M. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2019), 623

<BR /> Aims: To date, infrared interferometry at best achieved contrast ratios of a few times 10[SUP]-4[/SUP] on bright targets. GRAVITY, with its dual-field mode, is now capable of high contrast ... [more ▼]

<BR /> Aims: To date, infrared interferometry at best achieved contrast ratios of a few times 10[SUP]-4[/SUP] on bright targets. GRAVITY, with its dual-field mode, is now capable of high contrast observations, enabling the direct observation of exoplanets. We demonstrate the technique on HR 8799, a young planetary system composed of four known giant exoplanets. <BR /> Methods: We used the GRAVITY fringe tracker to lock the fringes on the central star, and integrated off-axis on the HR 8799 e planet situated at 390 mas from the star. Data reduction included post-processing to remove the flux leaking from the central star and to extract the coherent flux of the planet. The inferred K band spectrum of the planet has a spectral resolution of 500. We also derive the astrometric position of the planet relative to the star with a precision on the order of 100 μas. <BR /> Results: The GRAVITY astrometric measurement disfavors perfectly coplanar stable orbital solutions. A small adjustment of a few degrees to the orbital inclination of HR 8799 e can resolve the tension, implying that the orbits are close to, but not strictly coplanar. The spectrum, with a signal-to-noise ratio of ≈5 per spectral channel, is compatible with a late-type L brown dwarf. Using Exo-REM synthetic spectra, we derive a temperature of 1150 ± 50 K and a surface gravity of 10[SUP]4.3 ± 0.3[/SUP] cm s[SUP]2[/SUP]. This corresponds to a radius of 1.17[SUB]-0.11[/SUB][SUP]+0.13[/SUP] R[SUB]Jup[/SUB] and a mass of 10[SUB]-4[/SUB][SUP]+7[/SUP] M[SUB]Jup[/SUB], which is an independent confirmation of mass estimates from evolutionary models. Our results demonstrate the power of interferometry for the direct detection and spectroscopic study of exoplanets at close angular separations from their stars. <P />The reduced spectrum is available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to <A href="http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/">http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr</A> (ftp://130.79.128.5) or via <A href="http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz- bin/qcat?J/A+A/623/L11">http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz- bin/qcat?J/A+A/623/L11</A>.Based on observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, ID 60.A-9102(G). [less ▲]

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See detailThe Structure of Chariklo’s Rings from Stellar Occultations
Bérard, D.; Sicardy, B.; Camargo, J. I. B. et al

in Astronomical Journal (2017), 154

Two narrow and dense rings (called C1R and C2R) were discovered around the Centaur object (10199) Chariklo during a stellar occultation observed on 2013 June 3. Following this discovery, we planned ... [more ▼]

Two narrow and dense rings (called C1R and C2R) were discovered around the Centaur object (10199) Chariklo during a stellar occultation observed on 2013 June 3. Following this discovery, we planned observations of several occultations by Chariklo’s system in order to better characterize the physical properties of the ring and main body. Here, we use 12 successful occulations by Chariklo observed between 2014 and 2016. They provide ring profiles (physical width, opacity, edge structure) and constraints on the radii and pole position. Our new observations are currently consistent with the circular ring solution and pole position, to within the ±3.3 km formal uncertainty for the ring radii derived by Braga-Ribas et al. The six resolved C1R profiles reveal significant width variations from ∼5 to 7.5 km. The width of the fainter ring C2R is less constrained, and may vary between 0.1 and 1 km. The inner and outer edges of C1R are consistent with infinitely sharp boundaries, with typical upper limits of one kilometer for the transition zone between the ring and empty space. No constraint on the sharpness of C2R’s edges is available. A 1σ upper limit of ∼20 m is derived for the equivalent width of narrow (physical width < 4 km) rings up to distances of 12,000 km, counted in the ring plane. [less ▲]

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See detailResolved astrometric orbits of ten O-type binaries
Le Bouquin, J.-B.; Sana, H.; Gosset, Eric ULiege et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017), 601

Our long term aim is to derive model-independent stellar masses and distances for long period massive binaries by combining apparent astrometric orbit with double-lined radial velocity amplitudes (SB2 ... [more ▼]

Our long term aim is to derive model-independent stellar masses and distances for long period massive binaries by combining apparent astrometric orbit with double-lined radial velocity amplitudes (SB2). We follow-up ten O+O binaries with AMBER, PIONIER and GRAVITY at the VLTI. Here, we report about 130 astrometric observations over the last 7 years. We combine this dataset with distance estimates to compute the total mass of the systems. We also compute preliminary individual component masses for the five systems with available SB2 radial velocities. Nine over the ten binaries have their three dimensional orbit well constrained. Four of them are known colliding wind, non-thermal radio emitters, and thus constitute valuable targets for future high angular resolution radio imaging. Two binaries break the correlation between period and eccentricity tentatively observed in previous studies. It suggests either that massive star formation produce a wide range of systems, or that several binary formation mechanisms are at play. Finally, we found that the use of existing SB2 radial velocity amplitudes can lead to unrealistic masses and distances. If not understood, the biases in radial velocity amplitudes will represent an intrinsic limitation for estimating dynamical masses from SB2+interferometry or SB2+Gaia. Nevertheless, our results can be combined with future Gaia astrometry to measure the dynamical masses and distances of the individual components with an accuracy of 5 to 15\%, completely independently of the radial velocities. [less ▲]

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See detailThe EChO science case
Tinetti, Giovanna; Drossart, Pierre; Eccleston, Paul et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2015), 1502

The discovery of almost 2000 exoplanets has revealed an unexpectedly diverse planet population. Observations to date have shown that our Solar System is certainly not representative of the general ... [more ▼]

The discovery of almost 2000 exoplanets has revealed an unexpectedly diverse planet population. Observations to date have shown that our Solar System is certainly not representative of the general population of planets in our Milky Way. The key science questions that urgently need addressing are therefore: What are exoplanets made of? Why are planets as they are? What causes the exceptional diversity observed as compared to the Solar System? EChO (Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory) has been designed as a dedicated survey mission for transit and eclipse spectroscopy capable of observing a large and diverse planet sample within its four-year mission lifetime. EChO can target the atmospheres of super-Earths, Neptune-like, and Jupiter-like planets, in the very hot to temperate zones (planet temperatures of 300K-3000K) of F to M-type host stars. Over the next ten years, several new ground- and space-based transit surveys will come on-line (e.g. NGTS, CHEOPS, TESS, PLATO), which will specifically focus on finding bright, nearby systems. The current rapid rate of discovery would allow the target list to be further optimised in the years prior to EChO's launch and enable the atmospheric characterisation of hundreds of planets. Placing the satellite at L2 provides a cold and stable thermal environment, as well as a large field of regard to allow efficient time-critical observation of targets randomly distributed over the sky. A 1m class telescope is sufficiently large to achieve the necessary spectro-photometric precision. The spectral coverage (0.5-11 micron, goal 16 micron) and SNR to be achieved by EChO, thanks to its high stability and dedicated design, would enable a very accurate measurement of the atmospheric composition and structure of hundreds of exoplanets. [less ▲]

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See detailHot exozodiacal dust resolved around Vega with IOTA/IONIC
Defrere, Denis ULiege; Absil, Olivier ULiege; Augereau, J.-C. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2011), 534

Context. Although debris discs have been detected around a significant number of main-sequence stars, only a few of them are known to harbour hot dust in their inner part where terrestrial planets may ... [more ▼]

Context. Although debris discs have been detected around a significant number of main-sequence stars, only a few of them are known to harbour hot dust in their inner part where terrestrial planets may have formed. Thanks to infrared interferometric observations, it is possible to obtain a direct measurement of these regions, which are of prime importance for preparing future exo-Earth characterisation missions. <BR /> Aims: We resolve the exozodiacal dust disc around Vega with the help of infrared stellar interferometry and estimate the integrated H-band flux originating from the first few AUs of the debris disc. <BR /> Methods: Precise H-band interferometric measurements were obtained on Vega with the 3-telescope IOTA/IONIC interferometer (Mount Hopkins, Arizona). Thorough modelling of both interferometric data (squared visibility and closure phase) and spectral energy distribution was performed to constrain the nature of the near-infrared excess emission. <BR /> Results: Resolved circumstellar emission within ~6 AU from Vega is identified at the 3-σ level. The most straightforward scenario consists in a compact dust disc producing a thermal emission that is largely dominated by small grains located between 0.1 and 0.3 AU from Vega and accounting for 1.23 ± 0.45% of the near-infrared stellar flux for our best-fit model. This flux ratio is shown to vary slightly with the geometry of the model used to fit our interferometric data (variations within ± 0.19%). <BR /> Conclusions: The presence of hot exozodiacal dust in the vicinity of Vega, initially revealed by K-band CHARA/FLUOR observations, is confirmed by our H-band IOTA/IONIC measurements. Whereas the origin of the dust is still uncertain, its presence and the possible connection with the outer disc suggest that the Vega system is currently undergoing major dynamical perturbations. [less ▲]

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See detailExoplanet Characterization and the Search for Life
Kasting, James; Traub, W.; Roberge, A. et al

E-print/Working paper (2009)

Over 300 extrasolar planets (exoplanets) have been detected orbiting nearby stars. We now hope to conduct a census of all planets around nearby stars and to characterize their atmospheres and surfaces ... [more ▼]

Over 300 extrasolar planets (exoplanets) have been detected orbiting nearby stars. We now hope to conduct a census of all planets around nearby stars and to characterize their atmospheres and surfaces with spectroscopy. Rocky planets within their star's habitable zones have the highest priority, as these have the potential to harbor life. Our science goal is to find and characterize all nearby exoplanets; this requires that we measure the mass, orbit, and spectroscopic signature of each one at visible and infrared wavelengths. The techniques for doing this are at hand today. Within the decade we could answer long-standing questions about the evolution and nature of other planetary systems, and we could search for clues as to whether life exists elsewhere in our galactic neighborhood. [less ▲]

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See detailPEGASE, an infrared interferometer to study stellar environments and low mass companions around nearby stars
Ollivier, M.; Absil, Olivier ULiege; Allard, F. et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2009), 23

PEGASE is a mission dedicated to the exploration of the environment (including habitable zone) of young and solar-type stars (particularly those in the DARWIN catalogue) and the observation of low mass ... [more ▼]

PEGASE is a mission dedicated to the exploration of the environment (including habitable zone) of young and solar-type stars (particularly those in the DARWIN catalogue) and the observation of low mass companions around nearby stars. It is a space interferometer project composed of three free flying spacecraft, respectively featuring two 40 cm siderostats and a beam combiner working in the visible and near infrared. It has been proposed to ESA as an answer to the first ``Cosmic Vision'' call for proposals, as an M mission. The concept also enables full-scale demonstration of space nulling interferometry operation for DARWIN. [less ▲]

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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 ULiege; 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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See detailGENIE: a Ground-Based European Nulling Instrument at ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer
Gondoin, P.; den Hartog, R.; Fridlund, M. et al

in Richichi, A.; Delplancke, F.; Paresce, F. (Eds.) et al The Power of Optical/IR Interferometry: Recent Scientific Results and 2nd Generation Instrumentation (2008)

Darwin is one of the most challenging space projects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal objectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars, to analyze the ... [more ▼]

Darwin is one of the most challenging space projects ever considered by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its principal objectives are to detect Earth-like planets around nearby stars, to analyze the composition of their atmospheres and to assess their ability to sustain life as we know it. Darwin is conceived as a space ``nulling interferometer'' which makes use of on-axis destructive interferences to extinguish the stellar light while keeping the off-axis signal of the orbiting planet. Within the frame of the Darwin program, definition studies of a Ground based European Nulling Interferometry Experiment, called GENIE, were completed in 2005. This instrument built around the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) in Paranal will test some of the key technologies required for the Darwin Infrared Space Interferometer. GENIE will operate in the L' band around 3.8 microns as a single Bracewell nulling interferometer using either two Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) or two 8m Unit Telescopes (UTs). Its science objectives include the detection and characterization of dust disks and low-mass companions around nearby stars. [less ▲]

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See detailA near-infrared interferometric survey of debris disk stars. I. Probing the hot dust content around eps Eridani and tau Ceti with CHARA/FLUOR
Di Folco, Emmanuel; Absil, Olivier ULiege; Augereau, J.-C. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2007), 475

Context: The quest for hot dust in the central region of debris disks requires high resolution and high dynamic range imaging. Near-infrared interferometry is a powerful means to directly detect faint ... [more ▼]

Context: The quest for hot dust in the central region of debris disks requires high resolution and high dynamic range imaging. Near-infrared interferometry is a powerful means to directly detect faint emission from hot grains. Aims: We probed the first 3 AU around tau Ceti and eps Eridani with the CHARA array (Mt Wilson, USA) in order to gauge the 2 mum excess flux emanating from possible hot dust grains in the debris disks and to also resolve the stellar photospheres. Methods: High precision visibility amplitude measurements were performed with the FLUOR single mode fiber instrument and telescope pairs on baselines ranging from 22 to 241 m of projected length. The short baseline observations allow us to disentangle the contribution of an extended structure from the photospheric emission, while the long baselines constrain the stellar diameter. Results: We have detected a resolved emission around tau Cet, corresponding to a spatially integrated, fractional excess flux of 0.98±0.21 × 10[SUP]-2[/SUP] with respect to the photospheric flux in the K'-band. Around eps Eri, our measurements can exclude a fractional excess of greater than 0.6× 10[SUP]-2[/SUP] (3sigma). We interpret the photometric excess around tau Cet as a possible signature of hot grains in the inner debris disk and demonstrate that a faint, physical or background, companion can be safely excluded. In addition, we measured both stellar angular diameters with an unprecedented accuracy: Theta_LD(tau Cet)= 2.015 ± 0.011 mas and Theta_LD(eps Eri)=2.126 ± 0.014 mas. [less ▲]

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See detailInterferometric Constraints on Gravity Darkening with Application to the Modeling of Spica A & B
Aufdenberg, J. P.; Ireland, M. J.; Mérand, A. et al

in Hartkopf, W. I.; Guinan, E. F.; Harmanec, P. (Eds.) Binary Stars as Critical Tools & Tests in Contemporary Astrophysics (2007, August 01)

In 2005 we obtained very precise interferometric measurements of the pole-on rapid rotator Vega (A0 V) with the longest baselines of the Center for High Angular Angular Resolution (CHARA) Array and the ... [more ▼]

In 2005 we obtained very precise interferometric measurements of the pole-on rapid rotator Vega (A0 V) with the longest baselines of the Center for High Angular Angular Resolution (CHARA) Array and the Fiber Linked Unit for Optical Recombination (FLUOR). For the analysis of these data, we developed a code for mapping sophisticated PHOENIX model atmospheres on to the surface of rotationally distorted stars described by a Roche-von Zeipel formalism. Given a setof input parameters for a star or binary pair, this code predicts the interferometric visibility, spectral energy distribution and high-resolution line spectrum expected for the system. For the gravity-darkened Vega, our model provides a very good match to the K-band interferometric data, a good match to the spectral energy distribution -- except below 160 nm -- and a rather poor match to weak lines in the high dispersion spectrum where the model appears overly gravity darkened. In 2006, we used the CHARA Array and FLUOR to obtain high precision measurements of the massive, non-eclipsing, double-line spectroscopic binary Spica, a 4-day period system where both components are gravity darkened rapid rotators. These data supplement recent data obtained with the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer. Our study follows the classic 1971 study by Herbison-Evans et al. who resolved Spica as a binary with the Narrabri Intensity Interferometer. We will report on our progress modelling the new interferometric and archival spectroscopic data, with the goal towards better constraining the apsidal constant. [less ▲]

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See detailFirst Results from the CHARA Array. VII. Long-Baseline Interferometric Measurements of Vega Consistent with a Pole-On, Rapidly Rotating Star
Aufdenberg, J. P.; Mérand, A.; Coudé du Foresto, V. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2006), 645

We have obtained high-precision interferometric measurements of Vega with the CHARA Array and FLUOR beam combiner in the K' band at projected baselines between 103 and 273 m. The measured visibility ... [more ▼]

We have obtained high-precision interferometric measurements of Vega with the CHARA Array and FLUOR beam combiner in the K' band at projected baselines between 103 and 273 m. The measured visibility amplitudes beyond the first lobe are significantly weaker than expected for a slowly rotating star characterized by a single effective temperature and surface gravity. Our measurements, when compared to synthetic visibilities and synthetic spectrophotometry from a Roche-von Zeipel gravity-darkened model atmosphere, provide strong evidence for the model of Vega as a rapidly rotating star viewed very nearly pole-on. Our best-fitting model indicates that Vega is rotating at ~91% of its angular break-up rate with an equatorial velocity of 275 km s[SUP]-1[/SUP]. Together with the measured vsini, this velocity yields an inclination for the rotation axis of 5deg. For this model the pole-to-equator effective temperature difference is ~2250 K, a value much larger than previously derived from spectral line analyses. A polar effective temperature of 10,150 K is derived from a fit to ultraviolet and optical spectrophotometry. The synthetic and observed spectral energy distributions are in reasonable agreement longward of 140 nm, where they agree to 5% or better. Shortward of 140 nm, the model is up to 10 times brighter than observed. The model has a luminosity of ~37 L[SUB]solar[/SUB], a value 35% lower than Vega's apparent luminosity based on its bolometric flux and parallax, assuming a slowly rotating star. Our model predicts the spectral energy distribution of Vega as viewed from its equatorial plane, and it may be employed in radiative models for the surrounding debris disk. [less ▲]

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See detailCircumstellar material in the Vega inner system revealed by CHARA/FLUOR
Absil, Olivier ULiege; di Folco, E.; Mérand, A. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2006), 452

Context: Only a handful of debris disks have been imaged up to now. Due to the need for high dynamic range and high angular resolution, very little is known about the inner planetary region, where small ... [more ▼]

Context: Only a handful of debris disks have been imaged up to now. Due to the need for high dynamic range and high angular resolution, very little is known about the inner planetary region, where small amounts of warm dust are expected to be found. Aims: We investigate the close neighbourhood of Vega with the help of infrared stellar interferometry and estimate the integrated K-band flux originating from the central 8 AU of the debris disk. Methods: We performed precise visibility measurements at both short (~30 m) and long (~150 m) baselines with the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, California) in order to separately resolve the emissions from the extended debris disk (short baselines) and from the stellar photosphere (long baselines). Results: After revising Vega's K-band angular diameter (theta_UD = 3.202 ± 0.005 mas), we show that a significant deficit in squared visibility (Delta V[SUP]2[/SUP] = 1.88 ± 0.34%) is detected at short baselines with respect to the best-fit uniform disk stellar model. This deficit can be either attributed to the presence of a low-mass stellar companion around Vega, or as the signature of the thermal and scattered emissions from the debris disk. We show that the presence of a close companion is highly unlikely, as well as other possible perturbations (stellar morphology, calibration), and deduce that we have most probably detected the presence of dust in the close neighbourhood of Vega. The resulting flux ratio between the stellar photosphere and the debris disk amounts to 1.29 ± 0.19% within the FLUOR field-of-view (~7.8 AU). Finally, we complement our K-band study with archival photometric and interferometric data in order to evaluate the main physical properties of the inner dust disk. The inferred properties suggest that the Vega system could be currently undergoing major dynamical perturbations. [less ▲]

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