Multiwavelength Transit Observations of the Candidate Disintegrating Planetesimals Orbiting WD 1145+017

Bryce Croll, Paul A. Dalba, Andrew Vanderburg, Jason Eastman, Saul Rappaport, John Devore, Allyson Bieryla, Philip S. Muirhead, Eunkyu Han, David W. Latham, Thomas G. Beatty, Robert A. Wittenmyer, Jason T. Wright, John Asher Johnson, Nate McCrady

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31 Scopus citations


We present multiwavelength, ground-based follow-up photometry of the white dwarf WD 1145+017, which has recently been suggested to be orbited by up to six or more short-period, low-mass, disintegrating planetesimals. We detect nine significant dips in flux of between 10% and 30% of the stellar flux in our ∼32 hr of photometry, suggesting that WD 1145+017 is indeed being orbited by multiple, short-period objects. Through fits to the asymmetric transits that we observe, we confirm that the transit egress is usually longer than the ingress, and that the transit duration is longer than expected for a solid body at these short periods, all suggesting that these objects have cometary tails streaming behind them. The precise orbital periods of the planetesimals are unclear, but at least one object, and likely more, have orbital periods of ∼4.5 hr. We are otherwise unable to confirm the specific periods that have been reported, bringing into question the long-term stability of these periods. Our high-precision photometry also displays low-amplitude variations, suggesting that dusty material is consistently passing in front of the white dwarf, either from discarded material from these disintegrating planetesimals or from the detected dusty debris disk. We compare the transit depths in the V- and R-bands of our multiwavelength photometry, and find no significant difference; therefore, for likely compositions, the radius of single-size particles in the cometary tails streaming behind the planetesimals must be ∼0.15 μm or larger, or ∼0.06 μm or smaller, with 2σ confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number82
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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