Status Report

New HST data and modeling reveal a massive planetesimal collision around Fomalhaut

By SpaceRef Editor
April 21, 2020
Filed under , , ,

Andras Gaspar, George H. Rieke

The apparent detection of an exoplanet orbiting Fomalhaut was announced in 2008. However, subsequent observations of Fomalhaut b raised questions about its status: Unlike other exoplanets, it is bright in the optical and nondetected in the infrared, and its orbit appears to cross the debris ring around the star without the expected gravitational perturbations. We revisit previously published data and analyze additional Hubble Space Telescope (HST) data, finding that the source is likely on a radial trajectory and has faded and become extended. Dynamical and collisional modeling of a recently produced dust cloud yields results consistent with the observations. Fomalhaut b appears to be a directly imaged catastrophic collision between two large planetesimals in an extrasolar planetary system. Similar events should be very rare in quiescent planetary systems of the age of Fomalhaut, suggesting that we are possibly witnessing the effects of gravitational stirring due to the orbital evolution of hypothetical planet(s) around the star.

Comments: 12 pages, 9 figures, accepted to PNAS

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)

Cite as: arXiv:2004.08736 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2004.08736v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Andras Gaspar 

[v1] Sun, 19 Apr 2020 01:21:33 UTC (1,653 KB)

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