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  • Upper limits on the water vapour content of the β Pictoris debris disk

    2019. Maria Cavallius (et al.). Astronomy and Astrophysics 628


    Context. The debris disk surrounding β Pictoris has been observed with ALMA to contain a belt of CO gas with a distinct peak at ~85 au. This CO clump is thought to be the result of a region of enhanced density of solids that collide and release CO through vaporisation. The parent bodies are thought to be comparable to solar system comets, in which CO is trapped inside a water ice matrix

    Aims. Since H2O should be released along with CO, we aim to put an upper limit on the H2O gas mass in the disk of β Pictoris.

    Methods. We used archival data from the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far-Infrared (HIFI) aboard the Herschel Space Observatory to study the ortho-H2O 1(10)-1(01) emission line. The line is undetected. Using a python implementation of the radiative transfer code RADEX, we converted upper limits on the line flux to H2O gas masses. The resulting lower limits on the CO/H2O mass ratio are compared to the composition of solar system comets.

    Results. Depending on the assumed gas spatial distribution, we find a 95% upper limit on the ortho-H2O line flux of7.5×10−20W m−2or1.2×10−19W m−2. These translate into an upper limit on the H2O mass of7.4×1016–1.1×1018kg depending on both the electron density and gas kinetic temperature. The range of derived gas-phase CO/H2O ratios is marginally consistent with low-ratio solar system comets.

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