Letter | Published:

A circumstellar dust disk around a star with a known planetary companion

Nature volume 395, pages 775777 (22 October 1998) | Download Citation



A planet with a minimum mass of 0.84 Jupiter masses (MJ) has been indirectly detected1 in a close orbit (radius 0.11 astronomical units, period 14.65 days) around the star 55 Cancri, which is of spectral type G8 and about 3 billion years old. The detection of excess infrared emission from this system also suggests2 the presence of circumstellar dust. Our Solar System has a disk of dust (and larger bodies) that is roughly coplanar with the planets—the so-called Kuiper Belt3. Here we report infrared coronagraphic observations of 55 Cancri in which the light from the primary star is blocked, allowing us to image a circumstellar dust disk. We find that the dust lies in a disk that extends to at least 40 AU, comparable to the expected extent for our Kuiper Belt3, whereas the inferred mass of the disk is approximately ten times that estimated for our Kuiper Belt. The disk around 55 Cancri is relatively dark at a wavelength of 2.3µm, which is consistent with absorption of light by methane ice on the dust particles. Assuming that the disk is coplanar with the planet, we determine the planet's mass to be 1.9−0.4+1.1 Jupiter masses. All the available evidence is suggestive of a mature planetary system around 55 Cancri.

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We thank Doug Toomey for instrumental assistance, and Andy Rivkin for many useful discussions. D.E.T. and R.H.B. were visiting astronomers at the Infrared Telescope Facility which isoperated by the University of Hawaii under contract to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This work is supported in part by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and by various NASA research grants.

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  1. Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, 1629 East University Boulevard, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • David E. Trilling
    •  & Robert H. Brown


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Correspondence to David E. Trilling.

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