Confirming the primarily smooth structure of the vega debris disk at millimeter wavelengths

A. Meredith Hughes, David J. Wilner, Brian Mason, John M. Carpenter, Richard Plambeck, Hsin Fang Chiang, Sean M. Andrews, Jonathan P. Williams, Antonio Hales, Kate Su, Eugene Chiang, Simon Dicker, Phil Korngut, Mark Devlin

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27 Scopus citations


Clumpy structure in the debris disk around Vega has been previously reported at millimeter wavelengths and attributed to concentrations of dust grains trapped in resonances with an unseen planet. However, recent imaging at similar wavelengths with higher sensitivity has disputed the observed structure. We present three new millimeter-wavelength observations that help to resolve the puzzling and contradictory observations. We have observed the Vega system with the Submillimeter Array (SMA) at a wavelength of 880μm and an angular resolution of 5″; with the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA) at a wavelength of 1.3mm and an angular resolution of 5″; and with the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) at a wavelength of 3.3mm and angular resolution of 10″. Despite high sensitivity and short baselines, we do not detect the Vega debris disk in either of the interferometric data sets (SMA and CARMA), which should be sensitive at high significance to clumpy structure based on previously reported observations. We obtain a marginal (3σ) detection of disk emission in the GBT data; the spatial distribution of the emission is not well constrained. We analyze the observations in the context of several different models, demonstrating that the observations are consistent with a smooth, broad, axisymmetric disk with inner radius 20-100AU and width ≳ 50AU. The interferometric data require that at least half of the 860μm emission detected by previous single-dish observations with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope be distributed axisymmetrically, ruling out strong contributions from flux concentrations on spatial scales of ≲100AU. These observations support recent results from the Plateau de Bure Interferometer indicating that previous detections of clumpy structure in the Vega debris disk were spurious.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number82
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • circumstellar matter
  • planet-disk interactions
  • planetary systems
  • stars: individual (Vega)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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