Monday, February 23, 2015

Will Structure of HR 8799's Inner Debris Disk Reveal Water Delivery Mechanism for Potential Terrestrial Exoplanets?

The dynamical structure of HR 8799's inner debris disk


Contro et al


The HR 8799 system, with its four giant planets and two debris belts, has an architecture closely mirroring that of our Solar system where the inner, warm asteroid belt and outer, cool Edgeworth-Kuiper belt bracket the giant planets. As such, it is a valuable laboratory for examining exoplanetary dynamics and debris disk-exoplanet interactions. Whilst the outer debris belt of HR 8799 has been well resolved by previous observations, the spatial extent of the inner disk remains unknown. This leaves a significant question mark over both the location of the planetesimals responsible for producing the belt's visible dust and the physical properties of those grains. We have performed the most extensive simulations to date of the inner, unresolved debris belt around HR 8799, using UNSW Australia's Katana supercomputing facility to follow the dynamical evolution of a model inner disk comprising 300,298 particles for a period of 60 million years. These simulations have enabled the characterisation of the extent and structure of the inner disk in detail, and will in future allow us to provide a first estimate of the small-body impact rate and water delivery prospects for possible (as-yet undetected) terrestrial planet(s) in the inner system.

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