Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A planet within the debris disk around the pre-main-sequence star AU Microscopii

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 15 July 2020

This article has been updated


AU Microscopii (AU Mic) is the second closest pre-main-sequence star, at a distance of 9.79 parsecs and with an age of 22 million years1. AU Mic possesses a relatively rare2 and spatially resolved3 edge-on debris disk extending from about 35 to 210 astronomical units from the star4, and with clumps exhibiting non-Keplerian motion5,6,7. Detection of newly formed planets around such a star is challenged by the presence of spots, plage, flares and other manifestations of magnetic ‘activity’ on the star8,9. Here we report observations of a planet transiting AU Mic. The transiting planet, AU Mic b, has an orbital period of 8.46 days, an orbital distance of 0.07 astronomical units, a radius of 0.4 Jupiter radii, and a mass of less than 0.18 Jupiter masses at 3σ confidence. Our observations of a planet co-existing with a debris disk offer the opportunity to test the predictions of current models of planet formation and evolution.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: TESS light curve for AU Mic.
Fig. 2: Light curves of the transits of AU Mic b, and a separate, candidate transit event.
Fig. 3: Mass–radius diagram showing AU Mic b in the context of ‘mature’ exoplanets and known young exoplanets.

Data availability

In addition to the figure data available, all raw spectroscopic data are available either in the associated observatory archive or upon request from the corresponding author. The TESS light curve is available at the MAST archive, and the SuperWASP light curve is available at the NASA Exoplanet Archive. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

All code that is not readily available on GitHub is available upon request.

Change history

  • 15 July 2020

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


  1. 1.

    Mamajek, E. E. & Bell, C. P. M. On the age of the β Pictoris moving group. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 445, 2169–2180 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Plavchan, P., Jura, M. & Lipscy, S. J. Where are the M dwarf disks older than 10 million years? Astrophys. J. 631, 1161 (2005).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Kalas, P., Liu, M. C. & Matthews, B. C. Discovery of a large dust disk around the nearby star AU Microscopii. Science 303, 1990–1992 (2004).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Strubbe, L. E. & Chiang, E. I. Dust dynamics, surface brightness profiles, and thermal spectra of debris disks: the case of AU Microscopii. Astrophys. J. 648, 652 (2006).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Boccaletti, A. et al. Fast-moving features in the debris disk around AU Microscopii. Nature 526, 230–232 (2015).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Chiang, E. & Fung, J. Stellar winds and dust avalanches in the AU Mic debris disk. Astrophys. J. 848, 4 (2017)

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Sezestre, É. et al. Expelled grains from an unseen parent body around AU Microscopii. Astron. Astrophys. 607, A65 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    van Eyken, J. et al. The PTF Orion project: a possible planet transiting a T-Tauri star. Astrophys. J. 755, 42 (2012).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Donati, J. F. et al. A hot Jupiter orbiting a 2-million-year-old solar-mass T Tauri star. Nature 534, 662–666 (2016).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Ricker, G. R. et al. Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). J. Astron. Telesc. Instrum. Syst. 1, 014003 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Deming, D. et al. Spitzer secondary eclipses of the dense, modestly-irradiated, giant exoplanet HAT-P-20b using pixel-level decorrelation. Astrophys. J. 805, 132 (2015).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Lannier, J. et al. Combining direct imaging and radial velocity data towards a full exploration of the giant planet population. I. Method and first results. Astron. Astrophys. 603, A54 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Kley, W. & Nelson, R. P. Planet-disk interaction and orbital evolution. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 50, 211–249 (2012).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Snellen, I. A. G. & Brown, A. G. A. The mass of the young planet Beta Pictoris b through the astrometric motion of its host star. Nature Astron. 2, 883–886 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Plavchan, P. et al. New debris disks around young, low-mass stars discovered with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astrophys. J. 698, 1068–1094 (2009).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    MacGregor, M. A. et al. Millimeter emission structure in the first ALMA image of the AU Mic debris disk. Astrophys. J. 762, L21 (2013).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    White, R. et al. Stellar radius measurements of the young debris disk host AU Mic. Proc. AAS Meet. 233, 348.12 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Torres, C. A. O., Ferraz Mello, S. & Quast, G. R. HD 197481: a periodic dMe variable star. Astrophys. J. 11, L13–L14 (1972).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Chen, J. & Kipping, D. Probabilistic forecasting of the masses and radii of other worlds. Astrophys. J. 834, 17 (2017).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Eggen, O. J. Narrow- and broad-band photometry of red stars. II. Dwarfs. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 16, 49 (1968).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Hebb, L. et al. A search for planets transiting the M-dwarf debris disc host, AU Microscopii. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 379, 63–72 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Pollacco, D. L. et al. The WASP project and the SuperWASP cameras. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 118, 1407–1418 (2006).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Jenkins, J. et al. Overview of the Kepler science processing pipeline. Astrophys. J. 713, L87–L91 (2010).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Jenkins, J. et al. The TESS science processing operations center. Proc. SPIE 9913, 99133E (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Eastman, J., Gaudi, B. S. & Agol, E. EXOFAST: a fast exoplanetary fitting suite in IDL. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 125, 83 (2013).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Eastman, J. EXOFASTv2: Generalized publication-quality exoplanet modeling code. (ascl:1710.003, Astrophysics Source Code Library, 2017).

  27. 27.

    Kipping, D. Characterizing distant worlds with asterodensity profiling. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 440, 2164–2184 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Stumpe, M. C. et al. Multiscale systematic error correction via wavelet-based bandsplitting in Kepler data. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 126, 100 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Smith, J. C. et al. Kepler presearch data conditioning II — a Bayesian approach to systematic error correction. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 124, 1000 (2012).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Rayner, J. T. et al. iSHELL: a construction, assembly and testing. Proc. SPIE 9908, 990884 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Cale, B. et al. Precise radial velocities of cool low mass stars with iSHELL. Astron. J. 158, 170 (2019).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Mayor, M. et al. Setting new standards with HARPS. Messenger 114, 20 (2003).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Howard, A. W. et al. The California Planet Survey. I. Four new giant exoplanets. Astrophys. J. 721, 1467–1481 (2010).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Anglada-Escudé, G. & Butler, R. P. The HARPS-TERRA project. I. Description of the algorithms, performance, and new measurements on a few remarkable stars observed by HARPS. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 200, 15 (2012).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Reiners, A. et al. Detecting planets around very low mass stars with the radial velocity method. Astrophys. J. 710, 432–443 (2010).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Tal-Or, L. et al. The CARMENES search for exoplanets around M dwarfs. Radial-velocity variations of active stars in visual-channel spectra. Astron. Astrophys. 614, A122 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Haywood, R. Hide and Seek: Radial-Velocity Searches for Planets around Active Stars. PhD thesis, Univ. St Andrews (2015).

  38. 38.

    Barnes, J. R. et al. Recovering planet radial velocity signals in the presence of starspot activity in fully convective stars. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 466, 1733–1740 (2017).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Fulton, B. J., Petigura, E. A., Blunt, S. & Sinukoff, E. RadVel: the radial velocity modeling toolkit. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 130, 044504 (2018).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Vanderburg, A. et al. The Goldilocks trap: stellar activity masquerading as habitable exoplanets. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 459, 3565 (2016).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Nava, C. et al. Exoplanet imitators: a test of stellar activity behavior in radial velocity signals. Astron. J. 159, 23 (2020).

  42. 42.

    Reiners, A. et al. Radial velocity signatures of Zeeman broadening. Astron. Astrophys. 552, A103 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Marchwinski, R. C. et al. Toward understanding stellar radial velocity jitter as a function of wavelength: the Sun as a proxy. Astrophys. J. 798, 63 (2015).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Cody, A. M. et al. CSI 2264: Simultaneous optical and infrared light curves of young disk-bearing stars in NGC 2264 with CoRoT and Spitzer — evidence for multiple origins of variability. Astron. J. 147, 82 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Parks, J. R. et al. Periodic and aperiodic variability in the molecular cloud ρ Ophiuchus. Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 211, 3 (2014).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Baraffe, I. et al. New evolutionary models for pre-main sequence and main sequence low-mass stars down to the hydrogen-burning limit. Astron. Astrophys. 577, A42 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Nortmann, L. et al. Ground-based detection of an extended helium atmosphere in the Saturn-mass exoplanet WASP-69b. Science 362, 1388–1391 (2018).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Allart, R. et al. Spectrally resolved helium absorption from the extended atmosphere of a warm Neptune-mass exoplanet. Science 362, 1384–1387 (2018).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Wang, J. J. et al. Gemini Planet Imager observations of the AU Microscopii debris disk: asymmetries within one arcsecond. Astrophys. J. 811, L19 (2015).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Roccatagliata, V. et al. Long-wavelength observations of debris discs around sun-like stars. Astron. Astrophys. 497, 409–421 (2009).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Wilson, P. A. et al. Detection of nitrogen gas in the β Pictoris circumstellar disc. Astron. Astrophys. 621, A121 (2019).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Nettelmann, N. et al. Uranus evolution models with simple thermal boundary layers. Icarus 275, 107 (2016).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Linder, E. et al. Evolutionary models of cold and low-mass planets: cooling curves, magnitudes, and detectability. Astron. Astrophys. 623, A85 (2019).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by grants to P.P. from NASA (award 16-APROBES16-0020 and support from the Exoplanet Exploration Program) and the National Science Foundation (Astronomy and Astrophysics grant 1716202), the Mount Cuba Astronomical Foundation and George Mason University start-up funds.The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility is operated by the University of Hawaii under contract NNH14CK55B with NASA. Funding for the TESS mission is provided by NASA’s Science Mission directorate. Some of the data presented here were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. This research has made use of the NASA Exoplanet Archive, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA under the Exoplanet Exploration Program. Some of the data presented in this paper were obtained from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST). The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26555. This research has made use of the services of the ESO Science Archive Facility, based on observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere with the HARPS spectrometer. This work has made use of data from the European Space Agency (ESA) mission Gaia, processed by the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC). Funding for the DPAC has been provided by national institutions, in particular the institutions participating in the Gaia Multilateral Agreement. MINERVA-Australis is supported by Australian Research Council LIEF Grant LE160100001, Discovery Grant DP180100972, Mount Cuba Astronomical Foundation, and institutional partners University of Southern Queensland, MIT, Nanjing University, George Mason University, University of Louisville, University of California Riverside, University of Florida and University of Texas at Austin. This work was partly supported by JSPS KAKENHI grant numbers JP18H01265 and 18H05439, JST PRESTO grant number JPMJPR1775, NSFC grant number 11673011 and MINECO grant ESP2016-80435-C2-2-R. D.D. acknowledges support for this work provided by NASA through Hubble Fellowship grant HST-HF2-51372.001-A awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute. B.P.B. acknowledges support from National Science Foundation grant AST-1909209. J.W. and P.G. acknowledge support from the Heising-Simons Foundation 51 Pegasi b fellowship.

Author information




P.P.: lead author, principal investigator for CSHELL/iSHELL gas cell and observations, analysis and interpretation. J.G., P.G., B.C., A.T., S.X.W., R.W.: CSHELL/iSHELL data reduction and forward model codes. W.M.: RADVEL analysis. T.B., D.D., S.Q., D.F.-M., E. Gilbert, C. Huang, D.K., E.K., E.V.Q., A.V.: analysis of TESS light curve. K.S., K.C., N.N., E.P., J.P.: follow-up ground-based observations. I.J.M.C., D.A.B., P.L., E.N.: Spitzer light curve. D.F., B.T., C. Hellier: inspection of ground-based light curves. D.W.L.: TRES. G.A.-E.: HARPS. G.R., R.V., S.S., J.N.W., J.M.J.: TESS mission architects. S.R., A.K., S.D., J.T.: TESS mission. F.A., M.C., M.K., A.R., V.R., J.W.: disk physics. D.A.A., J.E.S., A.Y.: flare analysis. C. Beichman, M.B., C. Brinkworth, D.R.C., S.R.K., B.M., S.M.M., K.v.B.: CSHELL/iSHELL instrumentation. B.P.B., C.J.B., J.T.C., J. Horner, J.K., J.O., C.G.T., R.A.W., D.J.W., H.Z.: MINERVA-Australis. A.C., C.D., E.F., C.G., F.G., R.H., T.H., J.H., C.K., N.L., M.M., T.M., A.N., J.T., B.W., D.W., P.Z.: CSHELL/iSHELL observers. E.J.G.: stellar parameters. A.W.H.: Keck HIRES.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter Plavchan.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature thanks Suzanne Aigrain and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 TESS and Spitzer light curves for AU Mic centred on four transit events.

a, b, Two TESS transits (respectively 1 and 2) for AU Mic b, with the model components plotted as indicated in the key. A flare is present during the egress of the first transit of AU Mic b, and a flare is present just after the ingress during the second transit of AU Mic b. Although this is unfortunate timing, flares of this amplitude are pervasive throughout the TESS light curve for AU Mic, and complicate the recovery of these events from automated transit search algorithms. c, The Spitzer transit observation of AU Mic b. The deviations in transit are not instrumental and will be the subject of a future paper, and are likely to be related to the planet crossing large active regions on the stellar surface (key from a and b applies here). d, The ~1 p.p.t. candidate single transit event seen in the TESS light curve. For all panels, 1σ measurement uncertainties are suppressed for visual clarity and are <1 p.p.t. 1σ model uncertainties in transit are shown as shaded regions. Source data

Extended Data Fig. 2 MCMC corner plot for custom combined Spitzer and TESS light-curve analysis for AU Mic.

The full set of model parameters are shown, with the posterior probability distributions along the diagonal, the others are the two-dimensional parameter covariance plots. Source data

Extended Data Fig. 3 One season (July to October 2007) of SuperWASP light curves for AU Mic from the NASA Exoplanet Archive, phase-folded to the rotation period of the star.

Measurements with large photometric uncertainties (>5%) have been excluded from the plot. 1σ measurement uncertainties are suppressed for visual clarity and are typically <1% but occasionally up to 5% at phases where there is more apparent vertical scatter in the measurement values themselves. Source data

Extended Data Fig. 4 Correlation plots of the standard HARPS stellar activity indicators with the RVs.

The bisector values for the cross-correlation function (‘CCF bisector’), but not the activity indicators (Hα, Na D, Ca ii H and K), show a correlation with the RVs, with substantial remaining scatter. Formal uncertainties are smaller than the plotted symbols. Source data

Extended Data Fig. 5 Correlation plots of the HARPS activity indicators with each other.

The activity indicators Ca ii H and K, Hα, and Na D are strongly correlated with one another, but not with the RVs or with the CCF bisector. Source data

Extended Data Fig. 6 The HARPS RVs and standard activity indicators, phase folded to the rotation period of the star.

Blue circles, HARPS RVs; black circles, standard activity indicators. None of the activity indicators show a statistically significant trend with the period of AU Mic b. The Ca and Na activity indicators appear to show (by eye) some cyclic variation with the rotation period of the star. Formal uncertainties are smaller than the plotted symbols. Source data

Extended Data Fig. 7 RV time-series of AU Mic, with fitting residuals, and phased to the orbital period of AU Mic b.

Shown are data from three spectrometers: iSHELL (yellow circles), HIRES (black circles) and HARPS (red squares). Uncertainties shown are 1σ for HARPS and iSHELL. For HIRES, a 5 m s−1 minimum 1σ uncertainty is adopted, although the formal 1σ uncertainties are smaller for all but one epoch at 5.43 m s−1. The maximum-likelihood best fit model is overlaid in blue, with shaded regions indicating the 1σ model confidence interval, with a separate GP for each dataset indicated with different coloured shaded regions. b, Model-subtracted residuals, with the same colours as in a. Because our RVs are undersampled with respect to the stellar rotation period38, the GP best-fit model overfits the AU Mic RV time-series. c, RV measurements are phased to the orbital period of AU Mic b, and binned in phase (red circles). The blue curve is a maximum-likelihood best-fit circular orbit model, after subtracting the best fit GP model of stellar activity and the modelled instrument offsets. The plot is labelled with the best-fit orbital period Pb, velocity semi-amplitude Kb, and the assumed circular orbit (eb = 0). Source data

Extended Data Fig. 8 RADVEL MCMC corner plot for the model parameters for the iSHELL, HARPS and HIRES RV datasets.

Along the diagonal are the one-dimensional posterior probability distributions for a given model parameter; the others are the two-dimensional parameter covariance plots. Source data

Extended Data Fig. 9 Photometric variability amplitudes obtained contemporaneously in four different bandpasses.

The amplitudes (black squares) are from ref. 21. The horizontal error bars correspond to the effective bandpass widths, and the 1σ vertical error bars are set to 1 mmag. A 1/λ trend is shown in red, as would be expected for cool starspots with relatively small temperature contrast35. Source data

Extended Data Table 1 Model comparison results

Source data

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Plavchan, P., Barclay, T., Gagné, J. et al. A planet within the debris disk around the pre-main-sequence star AU Microscopii. Nature 582, 497–500 (2020).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing