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Journal Articles The Astrophysical Journal Letters Year : 2020

Spin-Orbit Alignment of the β Pictoris Planetary System

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Stefan Kraus
  • Function : Author
Alexander Kreplin
  • Function : Author
Claire L. Davies
  • Function : Author
Edward Hone
  • Function : Author
John D. Monnier
  • Function : Author
Tyler Gardner
  • Function : Author
Grant Kennedy
  • Function : Author
Sasha Hinkley
  • Function : Author


A crucial diagnostic that can tell us about processes involved in the formation and dynamical evolution of planetary systems is the angle between the rotation axis of a star and a planet's orbital angular momentum vector ("spin-orbit" alignment or "obliquity"). Here we present the first spin-orbit alignment measurement for a wide-separation exoplanetary system, namely on the directly imaged planet β Pictoris b. We use VLTI/GRAVITY spectro-interferometry with an astrometric accuracy of 1 μas (microarcsecond) in the Brγ photospheric absorption line to measure the photocenter displacement associated with the stellar rotation. Taking inclination constraints from astroseismology into account, we constrain the three-dimensional orientation of the stellar spin axis and find that β Pic b orbits its host star on a prograde orbit. The angular momentum vectors of the stellar photosphere, the planet, and the outer debris disk are well aligned with mutual inclinations ≤3° ± 5°, which indicates that β Pic b formed in a system without significant primordial misalignments. Our results demonstrate the potential of infrared interferometry to measure the spin-orbit alignment for wide-separation planetary systems, probing a highly complementary regime to the parameter space accessible with the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect. If the low obliquity is confirmed by measurements on a larger sample of wide-separation planets, it would lend support to theories that explain the obliquity in Hot Jupiter systems with dynamical scattering and the Kozai-Lidov mechanism.

Dates and versions

insu-03705196 , version 1 (27-06-2022)



Stefan Kraus, Jean-Baptiste Le Bouquin, Alexander Kreplin, Claire L. Davies, Edward Hone, et al.. Spin-Orbit Alignment of the β Pictoris Planetary System. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2020, 897, ⟨10.3847/2041-8213/ab9d27⟩. ⟨insu-03705196⟩
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