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Published January 10, 2008 | Published
Journal Article Open

A survey for massive giant planets in debris disks with evacuated inner cavities


The commonality of collisionally replenished debris around main-sequence stars suggests that minor bodies are frequent around Sun-like stars.Whether or not debris disks in general are accompanied by planets is yet unknown, but debris disks with large inner cavities—perhaps dynamically cleared—are considered to be prime candidates for hosting large-separation massive giant planets. We present here a high-contrast VLT/NACO angular differential imaging survey for eight such cold debris disks. We investigated the presence of massive giant planets in the range of orbital radii where the inner edge of the dust debris is expected. Our observations are sensitive to planets and brown dwarfs with masses >3-7 Jupiter mass, depending on the age and distance of the target star. Our observations did not identify any planet candidates. We compare the derived planet mass upper limits to the minimum planet mass required to dynamically clear the inner disks.While we cannot exclude that single giant planets are responsible for clearing out the inner debris disks, our observations constrain the parameter space available for such planets. The nondetection of massive planets in these evacuated debris disks further reinforces the notion that the giant planet population is confined to the inner disk (<15 AU).

Additional Information

© 2008 American Astronomical Society. Received 2007 July 6; accepted 2007 September 24. We thank the staff at the Paranal Observatories for the support of the service mode observations. In particular, we are grateful to S. Mengel and G. Lowell-Tacconi for their help with the preparation of the observations. This material is partly based on work supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the NASA Astrobiology Institute under Cooperative Agreement CAN-02-OSS-02 issued through the Office of Space Science to the Life and Planets AstrobiologyCenter (LAPLACE). We would like to thank members of the FEPS team for their help in characterizing the target stars and their disks. FEPS is pleased to acknowledge support through NASA contracts 1224768, 1224634, and 1224566 administered through JPL.

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