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An extended scattered light disk around AT Pyx. Possible planet formation in a cometary globule

Abstract :
Aims: To understand how the multitude of planetary systems that have been discovered come to be, we need to study systems at different evolutionary stages, with different central stars but also in different environments. The most challenging environment for planet formation may be the harsh UV radiation field of nearby massive stars which quickly erodes disks by external photo-evaporation. We observed the AT Pyx system, located in the head of a cometary globule in the Gum Nebula, to search for signs of ongoing planet formation.
Methods: We used the extreme adaptive optics imager VLT/SPHERE in Dual Beam Polarization Imaging Mode in H-band as well as in IRDIFS Extended mode (K12-band imaging and Y-H integral field spectroscopy) to observe AT Pyx in polarized light and total intensity. Additionally, we employed VLT/NACO to observe the system in the L-band.
Results: We resolve the disk around AT Pyx for the first time in scattered light across multiple wavelengths in polarized light and total intensity. We find an extended (≥126 au) disk, with an intermediate inclination of between 35° and 42°. The disk shows a complex substructure and we identify two or possibly three spiral-like features. Depending on the precise geometry of the disk (which we cannot unambiguously infer from our data), the disk may be eccentric with an eccentricity of ~0.16 or partially self-shadowed. The spiral features and possible eccentricity are both consistent with signatures of an embedded gas giant planet with a mass of ~1 MJup. Our own observations can rule out brown dwarf companions embedded in the resolved disk, but are nevertheless not sensitive enough to confirm or rule out the presence of a gas giant.
Conclusions: AT Pyx is the first disk to be spatially resolved in a cometary globule in the Gum Nebula. By comparison with disks in the Orion Nebula Cluster we note that the extension of the disk may be exceptional for this environment if the external UV radiation field is indeed comparable to other cometary globules in the region. The signposts of ongoing planet formation are intriguing and need to be followed up with either higher sensitivity or at different wavelengths.

Based on observations performed with VLT/SPHERE under program ID 099.C-0147(B) and 1100.C-0481(F), as well as VLT/NACO under program ID 1101.C-0092(D).

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Submitted on : Monday, June 27, 2022 - 12:41:35 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 3:37:49 PM

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C. Ginski, R. Gratton, A. Bohn, C. Dominik, S. Jorquera, et al.. An extended scattered light disk around AT Pyx. Possible planet formation in a cometary globule. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2022, 662, ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/202142269⟩. ⟨insu-03705344⟩

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