An interferometric study of the Fomalhaut inner debris disk
III. Detailed models of the exozodiacal disk and its origin⋆
1 UJF-Grenoble 1/CNRS-INSU, Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG), UMR 5274, 38041 Grenoble, France
2 Astronomical Institute “Anton Pannekoek”, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94249, 1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3 Institut d’Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Université de Liège, 17, Allée du 6 Août, B5c B-4000 Sart Tilman, Belgium
4 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
5 Department of Astrophysics/IMAPP, Radboud University Nijmegen, PO Box 9010, 6500 GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands
6 Département de Physique et Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec H3C 3J7, Canada
7 Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N Cherry Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
8 Observatoire de Paris, Section de Meudon, 92195 Meudon Principal Cedex, France
9 Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, California Institute of Technology, Mail Code 100-22, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
Received: 5 March 2013
Accepted: 30 May 2013
Context. Debris disks are thought to be extrasolar analogs to the solar system planetesimal belts. The star Fomalhaut harbors a cold debris belt at 140 AU comparable to the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, as well as evidence of a warm dust component, unresolved by single-dish telescopes, which is suspected of being a bright analog to the solar system’s zodiacal dust.
Aims. Interferometric observations obtained with the VLTI/VINCI instrument and the Keck Interferometer Nuller have identified near- and mid-infrared excesses attributed respectively to hot and warm exozodiacal dust residing in the inner few AU of the Fomalhaut environment. We aim to characterize the properties of this double inner dust belt and to unveil its origin.
Methods. We performed parametric modeling of the exozodiacal disk (“exozodi”) using the GRaTeR radiative transfer code to reproduce the interferometric data, complemented by mid- to far-infrared photometric measurements from Spitzer and Herschel⋆⋆. A detailed treatment of sublimation temperatures was introduced to explore the hot population at the size-dependent sublimation rim. We then used an analytical approach to successively testing several source mechanisms for the dust and suspected parent bodies.
Results. A good fit to the multiwavelength data is found by two distinct dust populations: (1) a population of very small (0.01 to 0.5 μm), hence unbound, hot dust grains confined in a narrow region (~0.1–0.3 AU) at the sublimation rim of carbonaceous material; (2) a population of bound grains at ~2 AU that is protected from sublimation and has a higher mass despite its fainter flux level. We propose that the hot dust is produced by the release of small carbon grains following the disruption of dust aggregates that originate in the warm component. A mechanism, such as gas braking, is required to further confine the small grains for a long enough time. In situ dust production could hardly be ensured for the age of the star, so we conclude that the observed amount of dust is triggered by intense dynamical activity.
Conclusions. Fomalhaut may be representative of exozodis that are currently being surveyed at near and mid-infrared wavelengths worldwide. We propose a framework for reconciling the “hot exozodi phenomenon” with theoretical constraints: the hot component of Fomalhaut is likely the “tip of the iceberg” since it could originate in the more massive, but fainter, warm dust component residing near the ice line. This inner disk exhibits interesting morphology and can be considered a prime target for future exoplanet research.
Key words: techniques: interferometric / zodiacal dust / infrared: planetary systems / stars: individual: Fomalhaut / radiative transfer / circumstellar matter
Appendices are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2013