Saturday, February 7, 2015

Evolution of the Beta Pictoris System

The Inner Disk Structure, Disk-Planet Interactions, and Temporal Evolution in the Beta Pictoris System: A Two-Epoch HST/STIS Coronagraphic Study


Apai et al


We present deep HST/STIS coronagraphic images of the Beta Pic debris disk obtained at two epochs separated by 15 years. The new images and the re-reduction of the 1997 data provide the most sensitive and detailed views of the disk at optical wavelengths as well as the yet smallest inner working angle optical coronagraphic image of the disk. Our observations characterize the large-scale and inner-disk asymmetries and we identify multiple breaks in the disk radial surface brightness profile. We study in detail the radial and vertical disk structure and show that the disk is warped. We explore the disk at the location of the Beta Pic b super-jupiter and find that the disk surface brightness slope is continuous between 0.5 and 2.0 arcsec, arguing for no change at the separations where Beta Pic b orbits. The two epoch images constrain the disk surface brightness evolution on orbital and radiation pressure blow-out timescales. We place an upper limit of 3% on the disk surface brightness change between 3-5 arcsec, including the locations of the disk warp, and the CO and dust clumps. We discuss the new observations in the context of high-resolution multi-wavelength images and divide the disk asymmetries in two groups: axisymmetric and non-axisymmetric. The axisymmetric structures (warp, large-scale butterfly, etc.) are consistent with disk structure models that include interactions of a planetesimal belt and a non-coplanar giant planet. The non-axisymmetric features, however, require a different explanation.

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