Optical polarised phase function of the HR 4796A dust ring

J. Milli, N. Engler, H. M. Schmid, J. Olofsson, F. Ménard, Q. Kral, A. Boccaletti, P. Thébault, E. Choquet, D. Mouillet, A. M. Lagrange, J. C. Augereau, C. Pinte, G. Chauvin, C. Dominik, C. Perrot, A. Zurlo, T. Henning, J. L. Beuzit, H. AvenhausA. Bazzon, T. Moulin, M. Llored, O. Moeller-Nilsson, R. Roelfsema, J. Pragt

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Context. The scattering properties of the dust originating from debris discs are still poorly known. The analysis of scattered light is however a powerful remote-sensing tool to understand the physical properties of dust particles orbiting other stars. Scattered light is indeed widely used to characterise the properties of cometary dust in the solar system. 

Aims. We aim to measure the morphology and scattering properties of the dust from the debris ring around HR 4796 A in polarised optical light. 

Methods. We obtained high-contrast polarimetric images of HR 4796 A in the wavelength range 600-900 nm with the SPHERE/ZIMPOL instrument on the Very Large Telescope. 

Results. We measured for the first time the polarised phase function of the dust in a debris system over a wide range of scattering angles in the optical. We confirm that it is incompatible with dust particles being compact spheres under the assumption of the Mie theory, and propose alternative scenarios compatible with the observations, such as particles with irregular surface roughness or aggregate particles.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA54
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Planet-disk interactions
  • Planetary systems
  • Scattering
  • Stars: individual: HR 4796A
  • Techniques: high angular resolution
  • Techniques: polarimetric

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