Near-infrared scattered light properties of the HR 4796 A dust ring
A measured scattering phase function from 13.6° to 166.6°
1 European Southern Observatory (ESO), Alonso de Córdova 3107, Vitacura, Casilla 19001, Santiago, Chile
2 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
3 Aix-Marseille Univ, CNRS, LAM, Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, Marseille, France
4 UMI-FCA, CNRS/INSU France (UMI 3386), and Departamento de Astronomia, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 36- D Santiago, Chile
5 Department of Astronomy, California Institute of Technology, 1200 E. California Blvd, MC 249-17, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA
6 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
7 ETH Zurich, Institute for Astronomy, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
8 LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ. Paris 06, Univ. Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
9 Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK
10 Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N Cherry Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
11 Anton Pannekoek Astronomical Institute, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94249, 1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
12 Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
13 SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands
14 ONERA, The French Aerospace Lab, BP 72, 29 avenue de la Division Leclerc, 92322 Chatillon Cedex, France
15 Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
16 Stockholm University, AlbaNova University Center, Department of Astronomy, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
17 INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo dell’Osservatorio 5, 35122 Padova, Italy
18 NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, Caltech, Pasadena, California, USA
Received: 26 November 2015
Accepted: 16 December 2016
Context. HR 4796 A is surrounded by a debris disc, observed in scattered light as an inclined ring with a high surface brightness. Past observations have raised several questions. First, a strong brightness asymmetry detected in polarised reflected light has recently challenged our understanding of scattering by the dust particles in this system. Secondly, the morphology of the ring strongly suggests the presence of planets, although no planets have been detected to date.
Aims. We aim here at measuring with high accuracy the morphology and photometry of the ring in scattered light, in order to derive the phase function of the dust and constrain its near-infrared spectral properties. We also want to constrain the presence of planets and set improved constraints on the origin of the observed ring morphology.
Methods. We obtained high-angular resolution coronagraphic images of the circumstellar environment around HR 4796 A with VLT/SPHERE during the commissioning of the instrument in May 2014 and during guaranteed-time observations in February 2015. The observations reveal for the first time the entire ring of dust, including the semi-minor axis that was previously hidden either behind the coronagraphic spot or in the speckle noise.
Results. We determine empirically the scattering phase function of the dust in the H band from 13.6° to 166.6°. It shows a prominent peak of forward scattering, never detected before, for scattering angles below 30°. We analyse the reflectance spectra of the disc from the 0.95 μm to 1.6 μm, confirming the red colour of the dust, and derive detection limits on the presence of planetary mass objects.
Conclusions. We confirm which side of the disc is inclined towards the Earth. The analysis of the phase function, especially below 45°, suggests that the dust population is dominated by particles much larger than the observation wavelength, of about 20 μm. Compact Mie grains of this size are incompatible with the spectral energy distribution of the disc, however the observed rise in scattering efficiency beyond 50° points towards aggregates which could reconcile both observables. We do not detect companions orbiting the star, but our high-contrast observations provide the most stringent constraints yet on the presence of planets responsible for the morphology of the dust.
Key words: instrumentation: high angular resolution / planet-disk interactions / planets and satellites: detection / scattering / planetary systems
© ESO, 2017