Project P2: Sculpturing of debris disks by planets and companions (AIU/Jena)


Observational data show that the distribution of dust in debris disks is often inhomogeneous. Sharply bounded dust rings and inner regions void of dust closer to the star are common structural features, usually accompanied by additional asymmetries: variations in brightness along the rings, eccentric offsets of the disks with respect to the host stars, or partly warped disks. A variety of possible mechanisms has been put forward to explain these phenomena. Many involve the gravitational influence of suggested but yet unseen planets and companions. Dust asymmetries therefore yield the potential to gain deeper insights into the architecture of circumstellar systems. In this project, we aim for a consistent description of asymmetric debris disks from the underlying dynamical perturbations via collisional modeling to the resulting distribution of detectable dust. We will cast a set of scenarios for the formation of such asymmetries into models and use these to interpret available observational data. Our results will include refined predictions for whether and where planets and companions can be expected in individual well-observed systems. Conversely, we will also apply our models to the outer solar system, where little is known about dust itself. From the known distribution of planets and asteroids, we will be able to predict the dust distribution and compare with data from spacecraft such as "New Horizons". The project will complement project P1, which focuses on symmetric disks. Key ingredients for the collisional models and calculation of observables will be provided by projects P4–P9.