HST Imaging of Fomalhaut: Direct detection of an exosolar planet and Kuiper Belt around a nearby star


Wednesday, September 16 2009 - 12:00 pm, PDT
Paul Kalas
SETI Institute and University of California, Berkeley

 Advances in high-contrast imaging have produced a new sample of spatially resolved debris disks with morphologies attributed to the dynamical effects of planets.  I will briefly review several cases, including our recent non-detection of Beta Pictoris b using Keck adaptive optics at L-prime.  Then I will focus on the case for a planetary system around the nearby A star Fomalhaut.  Optical coronagraphic observations using the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard HST shows a vast dusty debris belt offset from the star and cleanly sculpted at its inside border.  Follow-up HST images have further revealed a co-moving point source with apparent orbital motion 18 AU interior to the dust belt.  I will discuss both the observational and theoretical evidence that the point source is a planet with < 3 Jupiter masses, making Fomalhaut b the lowest mass planet candidate detected via direct imaging.  I will give alternate explanations and discuss future plans for the detailed mapping of Fomalhaut's planetary system. 

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