Revealing asymmetries in the HD 181327 debris disk: A recent massive collision or interstellar medium warping

Christopher C. Stark, Glenn Schneider, Alycia J. Weinberger, John H. Debes, Carol A. Grady, Hannah Jang-Condell, Marc J. Kuchner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


New multi-roll coronagraphic images of the HD 181327 debris disk obtained using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on board the Hubble Space Telescope reveal the debris ring in its entirety at high signal-to-noise ratio and unprecedented spatial resolution. We present and apply a new multi-roll image processing routine to identify and further remove quasi-static point-spread function-subtraction residuals and quantify systematic uncertainties. We also use a new iterative image deprojection technique to constrain the true disk geometry and aggressively remove any surface brightness asymmetries that can be explained without invoking dust density enhancements/deficits. The measured empirical scattering phase function for the disk is more forward scattering than previously thought and is not well-fit by a Henyey-Greenstein function. The empirical scattering phase function varies with stellocentric distance, consistent with the expected radiation pressured-induced size segregation exterior to the belt. Within the belt, the empirical scattering phase function contradicts unperturbed debris ring models, suggesting the presence of an unseen planet. The radial profile of the flux density is degenerate with a radially varying scattering phase function; therefore estimates of the ring's true width and edge slope may be highly uncertain. We detect large scale asymmetries in the disk, consistent with either the recent catastrophic disruption of a body with mass >1% the mass of Pluto, or disk warping due to strong interactions with the interstellar medium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number58
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


  • methods: numerical
  • planetary systems
  • telescopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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