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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 detailNear-infrared scattered light properties of the HR 4796 A dust ring. A measured scattering phase function from 13.6° to 166.6°
Milli, J.; Vigan, A.; Mouillet, D. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017), 599

Context. HR 4796 A is surrounded by a debris disc, observed in scattered light as an inclined ring with a high surface brightness. Past observations have raised several questions. First, a strong ... [more ▼]

Context. HR 4796 A is surrounded by a debris disc, observed in scattered light as an inclined ring with a high surface brightness. Past observations have raised several questions. First, a strong brightness asymmetry detected in polarised reflected light has recently challenged our understanding of scattering by the dust particles in this system. Secondly, the morphology of the ring strongly suggests the presence of planets, although no planets have been detected to date. <BR /> Aims: We aim here at measuring with high accuracy the morphology and photometry of the ring in scattered light, in order to derive the phase function of the dust and constrain its near-infrared spectral properties. We also want to constrain the presence of planets and set improved constraints on the origin of the observed ring morphology. <BR /> Methods: We obtained high-angular resolution coronagraphic images of the circumstellar environment around HR 4796 A with VLT/SPHERE during the commissioning of the instrument in May 2014 and during guaranteed-time observations in February 2015. The observations reveal for the first time the entire ring of dust, including the semi-minor axis that was previously hidden either behind the coronagraphic spot or in the speckle noise. <BR /> Results: We determine empirically the scattering phase function of the dust in the H band from 13.6° to 166.6°. It shows a prominent peak of forward scattering, never detected before, for scattering angles below 30°. We analyse the reflectance spectra of the disc from the 0.95 μm to 1.6 μm, confirming the red colour of the dust, and derive detection limits on the presence of planetary mass objects. <BR /> Conclusions: We confirm which side of the disc is inclined towards the Earth. The analysis of the phase function, especially below 45°, suggests that the dust population is dominated by particles much larger than the observation wavelength, of about 20 μm. Compact Mie grains of this size are incompatible with the spectral energy distribution of the disc, however the observed rise in scattering efficiency beyond 50° points towards aggregates which could reconcile both observables. We do not detect companions orbiting the star, but our high-contrast observations provide the most stringent constraints yet on the presence of planets responsible for the morphology of the dust. [less ▲]

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See detailDirect detection of scattered light gaps in the transitional disk around HD 97048 with VLT/SPHERE
Ginski, C.; Stolker, T.; Pinilla, P. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2016), 595

<BR /> Aims: We studied the well-known circumstellar disk around the Herbig Ae/Be star HD 97048 with high angular resolution to reveal undetected structures in the disk which may be indicative of disk ... [more ▼]

<BR /> Aims: We studied the well-known circumstellar disk around the Herbig Ae/Be star HD 97048 with high angular resolution to reveal undetected structures in the disk which may be indicative of disk evolutionary processes such as planet formation. <BR /> Methods: We used the IRDIS near-IR subsystem of the extreme adaptive optics imager SPHERE at the ESO/VLT to study the scattered light from the circumstellar disk via high resolution polarimetry and angular differential imaging. <BR /> Results: We imaged the disk in unprecedented detail and revealed four ring-like brightness enhancements and corresponding gaps in the scattered light from the disk surface with radii between 39 au and 341 au. We derived the inclination and position angle as well as the height of the scattering surface of the disk from our observational data. We found that the surface height profile can be described by a single power law up to a separation 270 au. Using the surface height profile we measured the scattering phase function of the disk and found that it is consistent with theoretical models of compact dust aggregates. We discuss the origin of the detected features and find that low mass (≤1 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB]) nascent planets are a possible explanation. <P />Based on data collected at the European Southern Observatory, Chile (ESO Programs 096.C-0248, 096.C-0241, 077.C-0106). [less ▲]

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See detailShadows cast on the transition disk of HD 135344B. Multiwavelength VLT/SPHERE polarimetric differential imaging
Stolker, T.; Dominik, C.; Avenhaus, H. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2016), 595

Context. The protoplanetary disk around the F-type star HD 135344B (SAO 206462) is in a transition stage and shows many intriguing structures both in scattered light and thermal (sub-)millimeter emission ... [more ▼]

Context. The protoplanetary disk around the F-type star HD 135344B (SAO 206462) is in a transition stage and shows many intriguing structures both in scattered light and thermal (sub-)millimeter emission which are possibly related to planet formation processes. <BR /> Aims: We aim to study the morphology and surface brightness of the disk in scattered light to gain insight into the innermost disk regions, the formation of protoplanets, planet-disk interactions traced in the surface and midplane layers, and the dust grain properties of the disk surface. <BR /> Methods: We have carried out high-contrast polarimetric differential imaging (PDI) observations with VLT/SPHERE and obtained polarized scattered light images with ZIMPOL in the R and I-bands and with IRDIS in the Y and J-bands. The scattered light images and surface brightness profiles are used to study in detail structures in the disk surface and brightness variations. We have constructed a 3D radiative transfer model to support the interpretation of several detected shadow features. <BR /> Results: The scattered light images reveal with unprecedented angular resolution and sensitivity the spiral arms as well as the 25 au cavity of the disk. Multiple shadow features are discovered on the outer disk with one shadow only being present during the second observation epoch. A positive surface brightness gradient is observed in the stellar irradiation corrected (r[SUP]2[/SUP]-scaled) images in southwest direction possibly due to an azimuthally asymmetric perturbation of the temperature and/or surface density by the passing spiral arms. The disk integrated polarized flux, normalized to the stellar flux, shows a positive trend towards longer wavelengths which we attribute to large (2πa ≳ λ) aggregate dust grains in the disk surface. Part of the non- azimuthal polarization signal in the U[SUB]φ[/SUB] image of the J-band observation can be attributed to multiple scattering in the disk. <BR /> Conclusions: The detected shadow features and their possible variability have the potential to provide insight into the structure of and processes occurring in the innermost disk regions. Possible explanations for the presence of the shadows include a 22° misaligned inner disk, a warped disk region that connects the inner disk with the outer disk, and variable or transient phenomena such as a perturbation of the inner disk or an asymmetric accretion flow. The spiral arms are best explained by one or multiple protoplanets in the exterior of the disk although no gap is detected beyond the spiral arms up to 1.''0. <P />Based on observations collected at the European Southern Observatory, Chile, ESO No. 095.C-0273(A) and 095.C-0273(D). [less ▲]

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See detailEPOXI: Comet 103P/Hartley 2 Observations from a Worldwide Campaign
Meech, K. J.; A'Hearn, M. F.; Adams, J. A. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2011), 734(Letters), 11-9

Earth- and space-based observations provide synergistic information for space mission encounters by providing data over longer timescales, at different wavelengths and using techniques that are impossible ... [more ▼]

Earth- and space-based observations provide synergistic information for space mission encounters by providing data over longer timescales, at different wavelengths and using techniques that are impossible with an in situ flyby. We report here such observations in support of the EPOXI spacecraft flyby of comet 103P/Hartley 2. The nucleus is small and dark, and exhibited a very rapidly changing rotation period. Prior to the onset of activity, the period was ~16.4 hr. Starting in 2010 August the period changed from 16.6 hr to near 19 hr in December. With respect to dust composition, most volatiles and carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios, the comet is similar to other Jupiter-family comets. What is unusual is the dominance of CO[SUB]2[/SUB]-driven activity near perihelion, which likely persists out to aphelion. Near perihelion the comet nucleus was surrounded by a large halo of water-ice grains that contributed significantly to the total water production. [less ▲]

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