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Published January 10, 2009 | Published
Journal Article Open

Epsilon Eridani's planetary debris disk: structure and dynamics based on Spitzer and Caltech submillimeter observatory observations


Spitzer and Caltech Submillimeter Observatory images and spectrophotometry of Eridani at wavelengths from 3.5 to 350 μm reveal new details of its bright debris disk. The 350 μm map confirms the presence of a ring at r = 11"-28"(35-90 AU), observed previously at longer sub-mm wavelengths. The Spitzer mid-IR and far-IR images do not show the ring, but rather a featureless disk extending from within a few arcsec of the star across the ring to r~ 34" (110 AU). The spectral energy distribution (SED) of the debris system implies a complex structure. A model constrained by the surface brightness profiles and the SED indicates that the sub-mm ring emission is primarily from large (a~ 135 μm) grains, with smaller (a~ 15 μm) grains also present in and beyond the ring. The Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph and Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer SED-mode spectrophotometry data clearly show the presence of spatially compact excess emission at λ ≳ 15 μm that requires the presence of two additional narrow belts of dust within the sub-mm ring's central void. The innermost belt at r~ 3 AU is composed of silicate dust. A simple dynamical model suggests that dust produced collisionally by a population of about 11 M_⊕ of planetesimals in the sub-mm ring could be the source of the emission from both in and beyond the sub-mm ring. Maintaining the inner belts and the inner edge to the sub-mm ring may require the presence of three planets in this system including the candidate radial velocity object.

Additional Information

© 2009. The American Astronomical Society. Received 2008 May 25; accepted 2008 September 8; published 2008 December 22. This paper is based in part on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope that is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under NASA contract 1407, and in part on observations from the CSO. Support for this work was provided by NASA through awards issued by JPL/Caltech, including subcontracts 1278243 and 1255094, respectively, to the SETI Institute and the University of Arizona, and also by NASA grant NNG05GI81G. Analyses in this paper made use of the SIMBAD database operating at CDS, Strasbourg, France. We are grateful to J. Morrison and M. Blaylock, University of Arizona, for help with MIPS image data processing, and P. Smith, University of Arizona, for guidance in MIPS SEDmode data processing.We thank P. Plavchan and E. Becklin for helpful discussions.

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