Protostars and Planets VI, Heidelberg, July 15-20, 2013

Poster 2B068

The bright end of the exo-Zodi luminosity function: Disk evolution and implications for exo-Earth detectability

Kennedy, Grant (Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge)
Wyatt, Mark (Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge)

We present the first characterisation of the 12$um warm dust (``exo-Zodi\'\') luminosity function around Sun-like stars, focussing on the dustiest systems that can be identified by the WISE mission. We use the sample of main-sequence stars observed by Hipparcos within 150pc as an unbiased sample, and report the detection of six new warm dust candidates. The ages of five of these new sources are unknown, meaning that they may be sites of terrestrial planet formation or rare analogues of other old warm dust systems. We show that the dustiest old (>Gyr) systems such as BD+20 307 are 1 in 10,000 occurrences. Bright warm dust is much more common around young (<120Myr) systems, with a ~1% occurrence rate. We show that a two component in situ model where all stars have initially massive warm disks and in which warm debris is also generated at some random time along the stars\' main-sequence lifetime, perhaps due to a collision, can explain the observations. However, if all stars only have initially massive warm disks these would not be visible at Gyr ages, and random collisions on the main-sequence are too infrequent to explain the high disk occurrence rate for young stars. That is, neither component can explain the observations on their own. Despite these conclusions, we cannot rule out an alternative dynamical model in which comets are scattered in from outer regions because the distribution of systems with the appropriate dynamics is unknown. Our in situ model predicts that the fraction of stars with exo-Zodi bright enough to cause problems for future exo-Earth imaging attempts is at least roughly 10%, and is higher for populations of stars younger than a few Gyr. This prediction of roughly 10% also applies to old stars because bright systems like BD+20 307 imply a population of fainter systems that were once bright, but are now decaying through fainter levels. Our prediction should be strongly tested by the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer, which will provide valuable constraints and input for more detailed evolution models. A detection fraction lower than our prediction could indicate that the hot dust in systems like BD+20 307 has a cometary origin due to the quirks of the planetary dynamics. Population models of comet delivery need to be developed to help distinguish between different possible origins of warm dust.

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