Evidence for the Disruption of a Planetary System During the Formation of the Helix Nebulaa

Article


Marshall, Jonathan P., Ertel, Steve, Birtcil, Eric, Villaver, Eva, Kemper, Francisca, Boffin, Henri, Scicluna, Peter and Kamath, Devika. 2023. "Evidence for the Disruption of a Planetary System During the Formation of the Helix Nebulaa." The Astronomical Journal. 165 (1). https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-3881/ac9d90
Article Title

Evidence for the Disruption of a Planetary System During the Formation of the Helix Nebulaa

ERA Journal ID1048
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsMarshall, Jonathan P., Ertel, Steve, Birtcil, Eric, Villaver, Eva, Kemper, Francisca, Boffin, Henri, Scicluna, Peter and Kamath, Devika
Journal TitleThe Astronomical Journal
Journal Citation165 (1)
Article Number22
Number of Pages11
Year2023
PublisherIOP Publishing
Place of PublicationUnited States
ISSN0004-6256
1538-3881
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-3881/ac9d90
Web Address (URL)https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-3881/ac9d90
AbstractThe persistence of planetary systems after their host stars evolve into their post-main-sequence phase is poorly constrained by observations. Many young white dwarf systems exhibit infrared excess emission and/or spectral absorption lines associated with a reservoir of dust (or planetesimals) and its accretion. However, most white dwarfs are too cool to sufficiently heat any circumstellar dust to detectable levels of emission. The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) is a young, nearby planetary nebula; observations at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths have revealed excess emission associated with its central white dwarf (WD 2226-210). The origin of this excess is ambiguous. It could be a remnant planetesimal belt, a cloud of comets, or the remnants of material shed during the post-asymptotic giant branch (post-AGB) phase. Here we combine infrared (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, Spitzer, Herschel) and millimeter (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) observations of the system to determine the origin of this excess using multiwavelength imaging and radiative transfer modeling. We find the data are incompatible with a compact remnant planetesimal belt or post-AGB disk, and conclude the dust most likely originates from deposition by a cometary cloud. The measured dust mass, and lifetime of the constituent grains, implies disruption of several thousand Hale–Bopp equivalent comets per year to fuel the observed excess emission around the Helix Nebula's white dwarf.
KeywordsCircumstellar disks; Infrared excess; White dwarf stars
ANZSRC Field of Research 20205101. Astronomical sciences
Byline AffiliationsAcademia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan
Centre for Astrophysics
University of Arizona, United States
Center for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA), Spain
Institute of Space Sciences, Spain
Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), Spain
Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), Spain
European Southern Observatory, Chile
Macquarie University
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