New constraints on companions and dust within a few AU of Vega.
MENNESSON B., SERABYN E., HANOT C., MARTIN S.R., LIEWER K. and MAWET D.
Abstract (from CDS):
We report on high contrast near-infrared (∼2.2 µm) observations of Vega obtained with the Palomar Fiber Nuller, a dual sub-aperture rotating coronagraph installed at the Palomar Hale telescope. The data show consistent astrophysical null depth measurements at the ≃ 10–3 level or below for three different baseline orientations spanning 60 deg in azimuth, with individual 1σ uncertainties ≤ 7x10–4. These high cancellation and accuracy levels translate into a dynamic range greater than 1000:1 inside the diffraction limit of the 5 m telescope beam. Such high contrast performance is unprecedented in the near-infrared and provides improved constraints on Vega's immediate (≃20 to 250 mas, or ≃0.15 to 2 AU) environment. In particular, our measurements rule out any potential companion in the [0.25-1 AU] region contributing more than 1% of the overall near-infrared stellar flux, with limits as low as 0.2% near 0.6 AU. These are the best upper limits established so far by direct detection for a companion to Vega in this inner region. We also conclude that any dust population contributing a significant ( ≥ 1%) near-infrared thermal excess can arise only within 0.2 AU of the star, and that it must consist of much smaller grains than in the solar zodiacal cloud. Dust emission from farther than ≃2 AU is also not ruled out by our observations, but would have to originate in strong scattering, pointing again to very small grains.