STIS imaging of the HR 4796A circumstellar debris ring.
SCHNEIDER G., WEINBERGER A.J., BECKLIN E.E., DEBES J.H. and SMITH B.A.
Abstract (from CDS):
We have obtained high spatial resolution imaging observations of the HR 4796A circumstellar debris dust ring using the broad optical response of the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) in coronagraphic mode. We use our visual wavelength observations to improve upon the earlier measured geometrical parameters of the ring-like disk. Two significant flux density asymmetries are noted: (1) preferential forward scattering by the disk grains and (2) an azimuthal surface brightness anisotropy about the morphological minor axis of the disk with corresponding differential ansal brightness. We find the debris ring offset from the location of the star by ∼1.4 AU, a shift insufficient to explain the differing brightnesses of the northeast and southwest ansae simply by the 1/r 2 dimmunition of starlight. The STIS data also better quantify the radial confinement of the starlight-scattering circumstellar debris, to a characteristic region less than 14 AU in photometric half-width, with a significantly steeper inner truncation than outward falloff in radial surface brightness. The inferred spatial distribution of the disk grains is consistent with the possibility of one or more unseen co-orbital planetary-mass perturbers, and the colors of the disk grains are consistent with a collisionally evolved population of debris, possibly including ices reddened by radiation exposure to the central star.