Probing for exoplanets hiding in dusty debris disks: Disk imaging, characterization, and exploration with HST/STIS multi-roll coronagraphy

Glenn Schneider, Carol A. Grady, Dean C. Hines, Christopher C. Stark, John H. Debes, Joe Carson, Marc J. Kuchner, Marshall D. Perrin, Alycia J. Weinberger, John P. Wisniewski, Murray D. Silverstone, Hannah Jang-Condell, Thomas Henning, Bruce E. Woodgate, Eugene Serabyn, Amaya Moro-Martin, Motohide Tamura, Phillip M. Hinz, Timothy J. Rodigas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Spatially resolved scattered-light images of circumstellar debris in exoplanetary systems constrain the physical properties and orbits of the dust particles in these systems. They also inform on co-orbiting (but unseen) planets, the systemic architectures, and forces perturbing the starlight-scattering circumstellar material. Using Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) broadband optical coronagraphy, we have completed the observational phase of a program to study the spatial distribution of dust in a sample of 10 circumstellar debris systems and 1 "mature" protoplanetrary disk, all with HST pedigree, using point-spread-function-subtracted multi-roll coronagraphy. These observations probe stellocentric distances ≥5 AU for the nearest systems, and simultaneously resolve disk substructures well beyond corresponding to the giant planet and Kuiper Belt regions within our own solar system. They also disclose diffuse very low-surface-brightness dust at larger stellocentric distances. Herein we present new results inclusive of fainter disks such as HD 92945 (Fdisk/Fstar= 5 × 10-5), confirming, and better revealing, the existence of a narrow inner debris ring within a larger diffuse dust disk. Other disks with ring-like substructures and significant asymmetries and complex morphologies include HD 181327, for which we posit a spray of ejecta from a recent massive collision in an exo-Kuiper Belt; HD 61005, suggested to be interacting with the local interstellar medium; and HD 15115 and HD 32297, also discussed in the context of putative environmental interactions. These disks and HD 15745 suggest that debris system evolution cannot be treated in isolation. For AU Mic's edge-on disk, we find out-of-plane surface brightness asymmetries at ≥5 AU that may implicate the existence of one or more planetary perturbers. Time-resolved images of the MP Mus protoplanetary disk provide spatially resolved temporal variability in the disk illumination. These and other new images from our HST/STIS GO/12228 program enable direct inter-comparison of the architectures of these exoplanetary debris systems in the context of our own solar system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number59
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • methods: observational
  • planet-disk interactions
  • stars: individual (HD 15115, HD 15745, HD 32297, HD 53143, HD 61005, HD 92945, HD 107146, HD 139664, HD 181327, Au Mic, MP Mus)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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