Unveiling the β Pictoris system, coupling high contrast imaging, interferometric, and radial velocity data

A. M. Lagrange, P. Rubini, M. Nowak, S. Lacour, A. Grandjean, A. Boccaletti, M. Langlois, P. Delorme, R. Gratton, J. Wang, O. Flasseur, R. Galicher, Q. Kral, N. Meunier, H. Beust, C. Babusiaux, H. Le Coroller, P. Thebault, P. Kervella, A. ZurloA. L. Maire, Z. Wahhaj, A. Amorim, R. Asensio-Torres, M. Benisty, J. P. Berger, M. Bonnefoy, W. Brandner, F. Cantalloube, B. Charnay, G. Chauvin, E. Choquet, Y. Clénet, V. Christiaens, V. Coudé Du Foresto, P. T. De Zeeuw, S. Desidera, G. Duvert, A. Eckart, F. Eisenhauer, F. Galland, F. Gao, P. Garcia, R. Garcia Lopez, E. Gendron, R. Genzel, S. Gillessen, J. Girard, J. Hagelberg, X. Haubois, T. Henning, G. Heissel, S. Hippler, M. Horrobin, M. Janson, J. Kammerer, M. Kenworthy, M. Keppler, L. Kreidberg, V. Lapeyrère, J. B. Le Bouquin, P. Léna, A. Mérand, S. Messina, P. Mollière, J. D. Monnier, T. Ott, G. Otten, T. Paumard, C. Paladini, K. Perraut, G. Perrin, L. Pueyo, O. Pfuhl, L. Rodet, G. Rodriguez-Coira, G. Rousset, M. Samland, J. Shangguan, T. Schmidt, O. Straub, C. Straubmeier, T. Stolker, A. Vigan, F. Vincent, F. Widmann, J. Woillez, The GRAVITY Collaboration

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Context. The nearby and young β Pictoris system hosts a well resolved disk, a directly imaged massive giant planet orbiting at ∼ 9 au, as well as an inner planet orbiting at ∼ 2.7 au, which was recently detected through radial velocity (RV). As such, it offers several unique opportunities for detailed studies of planetary system formation and early evolution. 

Aims. We aim to further constrain the orbital and physical properties of β Pictoris b and c using a combination of high contrast imaging, long base-line interferometry, and RV data. We also predict the closest approaches or the transit times of both planets, and we constrain the presence of additional planets in the system. 

Methods. We obtained six additional epochs of SPHERE data, six additional epochs of GRAVITY data, and five additional epochs of RV data. We combined these various types of data in a single Markov-chain Monte Carlo analysis to constrain the orbital parameters and masses of the two planets simultaneously. The analysis takes into account the gravitational influence of both planets on the star and hence their relative astrometry. Secondly, we used the RV and high contrast imaging data to derive the probabilities of presence of additional planets throughout the disk, and we tested the impact of absolute astrometry. 

Results. The orbital properties of both planets are constrained with a semi-major axis of 9.8 ± 0.4 au and 2.7 ± 0.02 au for b and c, respectively, and eccentricities of 0.09 ± 0.1 and 0.27 ± 0.07, assuming the HIPPARCOS distance. We note that despite these low fitting error bars, the eccentricity of β Pictoris c might still be over-estimated. If no prior is provided on the mass of β Pictoris b, we obtain a very low value that is inconsistent with what is derived from brightness-mass models. When we set an evolutionary model motivated prior to the mass of β Pictoris b, we find a solution in the 10-11 MJup range. Conversely, β Pictoris c's mass is well constrained, at 7.8 ± 0.4 MJup, assuming both planets are on coplanar orbits. These values depend on the assumptions on the distance of the β Pictoris system. The absolute astrometry HIPPARCOS-Gaia data are consistent with the solutions presented here at the 2σ level, but these solutions are fully driven by the relative astrometry plus RV data. Finally, we derive unprecedented limits on the presence of additional planets in the disk. We can now exclude the presence of planets that are more massive than about 2.5 MJup closer than 3 au, and more massive than 3.5 MJup between 3 and 7.5 au. Beyond 7.5 au, we exclude the presence of planets that are more massive than 1-2 MJup. 

Conclusions. Combining relative astrometry and RVs allows one to precisely constrain the orbital parameters of both planets and to give lower limits to potential additional planets throughout the disk. The mass of β Pictoris c is also well constrained, while additional RV data with appropriate observing strategies are required to properly constrain the mass of β Pictoris b.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA18
Number of pages17
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Planets and satellites: detection
  • Planets and satellites: fundamental parameters
  • Techniques: high angular resolution
  • Techniques: radial velocities

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