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Published December 1, 2006 | Published
Journal Article Open

New Debris Disks around Nearby Main-Sequence Stars: Impact on the Direct Detection of Planets


Using the MIPS instrument on Spitzer, we have searched for infrared excesses around a sample of 82 stars, mostly F, G, and K main-sequence field stars, along with a small number of nearby M stars. These stars were selected for their suitability for future observations by a variety of planet-finding techniques. These observations provide information on the asteroidal and cometary material orbiting these stars, data that can be correlated with any planets that may eventually be found. We have found significant excess 70 μm emission toward 12 stars. Combined with an earlier study, we find an overall 70 μm excess detection rate of 13% ± 3% for mature cool stars. Unlike the trend for planets to be found preferentially toward stars with high metallicity, the incidence of debris disks is uncorrelated with metallicity. By newly identifying four of these stars as having weak 24 μm excesses (fluxes ~10% above the stellar photosphere), we confirm a trend found in earlier studies wherein a weak 24 μm excess is associated with a strong 70 μm excess. Interestingly, we find no evidence for debris disks around 23 stars cooler than K1, a result that is bolstered by a lack of excess around any of the 38 K1-M6 stars in two companion surveys. One motivation for this study is the fact that strong zodiacal emission can make it hard or impossible to detect planets directly with future observatories such as the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF). The observations reported here exclude a few stars with very high levels of emission, >1000 times the emission of our zodiacal cloud, from direct planet searches. For the remainder of the sample, we set relatively high limits on dust emission from asteroid belt counterparts.

Additional Information

© 2006. The American Astronomical Society. Received 2006 April 17; accepted 2006 July 28. Print publication: Issue 2 (2006 December 1). This publication makes use of data products from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), as well as from IPAC, SIMBAD, VIZIER, and the ROE Debris Disks Database Web site. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of John Carpenter in reducing the IRAC data reported in this paper, and we thank Angelle Tanner and Kate Su for helpful discussions. The Spitzer Space Telescope is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under NASA contract 1407. Development of MIPS was funded by NASA through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, subcontract 960785. Some of the research described in this publication was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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