Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Are a Chain of Nemesis Class Exoplanets Scattering Comets Inwards in the η Corvi System?


Marino et al


While most of the known debris discs present cold dust at tens of AU, a few young systems exhibit hot dust analogous to the Zodiacal dust. η Corvi is particularly interesting as it is old and it has both, with its hot dust significantly exceeding the maximum luminosity of an in-situ collisional cascade. Previous work suggested that this system could be undergoing an event similar to the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) soon after or during a dynamical instability. Here we present ALMA observations of η Corvi with a resolution of 1."2 (~22au) to study its outer belt. The continuum emission is consistent with an axisymmetric belt, with a mean radius of 152au and radial FWHM of 46au, which is too narrow compared to models of inward scattering of an LHB-like scenario. Instead, the hot dust could be explained as material passed inwards in a rather stable planetary configuration. We also report a 4sigma detection of CO at ~ 20au. CO could be released in situ from icy planetesimals being passed in when crossing the H2O or CO2 ice lines. Finally, we place constraints on hidden planets in the disc. If a planet is sculpting the disc's inner edge, this should be orbiting at 75-100au, with a mass of 3-30 M⊕ and an eccentricity < 0.08. Such a planet would be able to clear its chaotic zone on a timescale shorter than the age of the system and scatter material inwards from the outer belt to the inner regions, thus feeding the hot dust.

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