Saturday, March 21, 2015

HD 15115's Debris Disk's Millimeter Emissions



MacGregor et al


We have used the Submillimeter Array (SMA) to make 1.3 mm observations of the debris disk surrounding HD 15115, an F-type star with a putative membership in the ? Pictoris moving group. This nearly edge-on debris disk shows an extreme asymmetry in optical scattered light, with an extent almost two times larger to the west of the star than to the east (originally dubbed the "Blue Needle"). The SMA observations reveal resolved emission that we model as a circumstellar belt of thermal dust emission. This belt extends to a radius of ~110 AU, coincident with the break in the scattered light profile convincingly seen on the western side of the disk. This outer edge location is consistent with the presence of an underlying population of dust-producing planetesimals undergoing a collisional cascade, as hypothesized in "birth ring" theory. In addition, the millimeter emission shows a $\sim 3\sigma $ feature aligned with the asymmetric western extension of the scattered light disk. If this millimeter extension is real, then mechanisms for asymmetry that affect only small grains, such as interactions with interstellar gas, are disfavored. This tentative feature might be explained by secular perturbations to grain orbits introduced by neutral gas drag, as previously invoked to explain asymmetric morphologies of other, similar debris disks.

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