Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 640A, 93-93 (2020/8-1)
Tidal disruption versus planetesimal collisions as possible origins for the dispersing dust cloud around Fomalhaut.
JANSON M., WU Y., CATALDI G. and BRANDEKER A.
Abstract (from CDS):
Recent analysis suggests that the faint optical point source observed around Fomalhaut from 2004-2014 (Fomalhaut b) is gradually fading and expanding, supporting the case that it may be a dispersing dust cloud resulting from the sudden disruption of a planetesimal. These types of disruptions may arise from catastrophic collisions of planetesimals, which are perturbed from their original orbits in the Fomalhaut dust ring by nearby giant planets. However, disruptions can also occur when the planetesimals pass within the tidal disruption field of the planet(s) that perturbed them in the first place, similar to the Shoemaker-Levy event observed in the Solar System. Given that a gravitationally focusing giant planet has a much larger interaction cross-section than a planetesimal, tidal disruption events can match or outnumber planetesimal collision events in realistic regions of parameter space. Intriguingly, the Fomalhaut dust cloud offers an opportunity to directly distinguish between these scenarios. A tidal disruption scenario leads to a very specific prediction of ephemerides for the planet causing the event. At a most probable mass of 66M⊕, a semi-major axis of 117 AU, and a system age of 400-500Myr, this planet would be readily detectable with the James Webb Space Telescope. The presence or absence of this planet at the specific, predicted position is therefore a distinctive indicator of whether the dispersing cloud originated from a collision of two planetesimals or from the disruption of a planetesimal in the tidal field of a giant planet.