Deep imaging survey of the environment of α Centauri
I. Adaptive optics imaging of α Cen B with VLT-NACO
LESIA, UMR 8109, Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France e-mail: Pierre.Kervella@obspm.fr
2 Département Cassiopée, UMR 6202, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, BP 4229, 06304 Nice Cedex 4, France
Accepted: 17 August 2006
Context.α Centauri is our closest stellar neighbor, at a distance of only 1.3 pc, and its two main components have spectral types comparable to the Sun. This is therefore a favorable target for an imaging search for extrasolar planets. Moreover, indications exist that the gravitational mass of α Cen B is higher than its modeled mass, the difference being consistent with a substellar companion of a few tens of Jupiter masses.
Aims.We searched for faint comoving companions to α Cen B. As a secondary objective, we built a catalogue of the detected background sources.
Methods.We used the NACO adaptive optics system of the VLT in the J, H, and Ks bands to search for companions to α Cen B. This instrument allowed us to achieve a very high sensitivity to point-like sources, with a limiting magnitude of at 7'' from the star. We complemented this data set with archival coronagraphic images from the HST-ACS instrument to obtain an accurate astrometric calibration.
Results.Over the observed area, we did not detect any comoving companion to α Cen B down to an absolute magnitude of 19-20 in the H and Ks bands. However, we present a catalogue of 252 background objects within about 15'' of the star. This catalogue fills part of the large void area that surrounds α Cen in sky surveys due to the strong diffused light. We also present a model of the diffused light as a function of angular distance for the NACO instrument, that can be used to predict the background level for bright star observations.
Conclusions.According to recent numerical models, the limiting magnitude of our search sets the maximum mass of possible companions to 20-30 times Jupiter, between 7 and 20 AU from α Cen B.
Key words: techniques: high angular resolution / stars: individual: α Cen / stars: planetary systems / stars: solar neighbourhood / astronomical data bases: miscellaneous / infrared: stars
© ESO, 2006