Friday, August 10, 2007

Another Paper.....

Back in December, I got to go observing for a couple nights with these guys from the Lyot Project at the American Museum of Natural History's Astro department. I helped them do a little bit of installation and alignment - it was really neat getting to see the instrument up close and personal. Over the last 6 months, I occasionally discussed telescope polarization, gave them some of my Zeemax models, and helped them a little bit with cross-talk issues. It was awesome when they stuck me on the end of their paper - going to Science this week.

Here's the abstract:

The 1 to 3 Myr old star AB Aurigae is ensconced in a disk of dust at least 130 astronomical units (AU) in radius, within a lower density region dominated by gas and of far greater extent (up to 750 AU). Prior to this study, the region inside 120 AU had not been imaged in light scattered from the dust alone. Using adaptive-optics coronagraphy and polarimetry we have imaged the dust in an annulus between 43 and 302 AU from the star. Structure, including an annular depletion zone at a radius of 102 AU, along with a clearing at closer radii inside this annulus, suggests the formation of at least one small body at an orbital distance of 102 ± 10 AU. The dust in the outer annulus seems to mimic models of mean motion resonances relative to the putative object and the star. Further, we describe a low significance (2.8-σ) detection of a point source in this outer annulus of dust. This object may be an overdensity in the disk due to dust accreting onto an unseen companion. An alternate interpretation suggests that the object is more massive than 5 MJ (the mass of Jupiter), but probably not more massive than 37 MJ . The results have implications for theories of companion formation around stars.

A neat picture of the polarization we were seeing.... and the possible "planet" making the "ring".


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