Constraining the exozodiacal luminosity function of main-sequence stars: Complete results from the Keck nuller mid-infrared surveys

B. Mennesson, R. Millan-Gabet, E. Serabyn, M. M. Colavita, O. Absil, G. Bryden, M. Wyatt, W. Danchi, D. Defrère, O. Doré, P. Hinz, M. Kuchner, S. Ragland, N. Scott, K. Stapelfeldt, W. Traub, J. Woillez

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Forty-seven nearby main-sequence stars were surveyed with the Keck Interferometer mid-infrared Nulling instrument (KIN) between 2008 and 2011, searching for faint resolved emission from exozodiacal dust. Observations of a subset of the sample have already been reported, focusing essentially on stars with no previously known dust. Here we extend this previous analysis to the whole KIN sample, including 22 more stars with known near- and/or far-infrared excesses. In addition to an analysis similar to that of the first paper of this series, which was restricted to the 8-9μm spectral region, we present measurements obtained in all 10 spectral channels covering the 8-13μm instrumental bandwidth. Based on the 8-9μm data alone, which provide the highest signal-to-noise measurements, only one star shows a large excess imputable to dust emission (η Crv), while four more show a significant (>3σ) excess: β Leo, β UMa, ζ Lep, and γ Oph. Overall, excesses detected by KIN are more frequent around A-type stars than later spectral types.Astatistical analysis of themeasurements further indicates that starswith known far-infrared (λ ≥ 70μm) excesses have higher exozodiacal emission levels than stars with no previous indication of a cold outer disk. This statistical trend is observed regardless of spectral type and points to a dynamical connection between the inner (zodi-like) and outer (Kuiper-Belt-like) dust populations. The measured levels for such stars are clustering close to the KIN detection limit of a few hundred zodis and are indeed consistent with those expected from a population of dust that migrated in from the outer belt by Poynting-Robertson drag. Conversely, no significant midinfrared excess is found around sources with previously reported near-infrared resolved excesses, which typically have levels of the order of 1% over the photospheric flux. If dust emission is really at play in these near-infrared detections, the absence of a strong mid-infrared counterpart points to populations of very hot and small (submicron) grains piling up very close to the sublimation radius. For solar-type stars with no known infrared excess, likely to be the most relevant targets for a future exo-Earth direct imaging mission, we find that their median zodi level is 12±24 zodis and lower than 60 (90) zodis with 95% (99%) confidence, if a lognormal zodi luminosity distribution is assumed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2014


  • Circumstellar matter
  • Infrared: stars
  • Instrumentation: interferometers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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