The dust grain size - stellar luminosity trend in debris discs
Pawellek et al
The cross section of material in debris discs is thought to be dominated by the smallest grains that can still stay in bound orbits despite the repelling action of stellar radiation pressure. Thus the minimum (and typical) grain size smin is expected to be close to the radiation pressure blowout size sblow. Yet a recent analysis of a sample of Herschel-resolved debris discs showed the ratio smin/sblow to systematically decrease with the stellar luminosity from about ten for solar-type stars to nearly unity in the discs around the most luminous A-type stars. Here we explore this trend in more detail, checking how significant it is and seeking to find possible explanations. We show that the trend is robust to variation of the composition and porosity of dust particles. For any assumed grain properties and stellar parameters, we suggest a recipe of how to estimate the "true" radius of a spatially unresolved debris disc, based solely on its spectral energy distribution. The results of our collisional simulations are qualitatively consistent with the trend, although additional effects may also be at work. In particular, the lack of grains with small smin/sblow for lower luminosity stars might be caused by the grain surface energy constraint that should limit the size of the smallest collisional fragments. Also, a better agreement between the data and the collisional simulations is achieved when assuming debris discs of more luminous stars to have higher dynamical excitation than those of less luminous primaries. This would imply that protoplanetary discs of more massive young stars are more efficient in forming big planetesimals or planets that act as stirrers in the debris discs at the subsequent evolutionary stage.