Milky Way Galaxy and Planet Research Summary

Identification of New Planet Forming Star Systems?

UW graduate student Brian Uzpen and I are using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope's GLIMPSE (Galactic Legacy Infrared MidPlane Survey Extraordinaire) survey to identify stars with excess emission at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths. Such signatures indicate the presence of dusty disks or rings of material around the star. Pre-main sequence stars often show this phenomenon, but even more exciting are the main sequence stars which show an excess. In these systems, the disk of material is a "debris disk" probably due to collisions of planets and asteroids. Thus, the Infrared excess is a probable signature of planet formation. We have made an initial identification ( Uzpen, Kobulnicky et al. 2005 ) of 20+ stellar systems spanning a range of spectral types from A to K that are candidates for debris disk, or "Beta-Pictoris" type systems, named after the prototype star where the debris disk was first discovered in 1984. Given the large scope of the GLIMPSE survey (260 square degrees of the Galactic Plane) we anticipate many more such discoveries.

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