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Session 47 - Circumstellar Disks & Shells.
Display session, Thursday, January 08
We have observed the extensive circumstellar disk (Kuiper Belt) of \beta Pictoris using the WFPC2/PC aboard the Hubble Space Telescope. We have used the pyramid of the WFPC2 to image seperately the central star on a different CCD chip than that of the disk. This eliminated bleeding and other effects inherent in the CCDs, thereby leaving the PC chip containing the image of the disk relatively free from major contamination. By using the same observational setup and observing \alpha Pic, a star of similar spectral type and magnitude to \beta Pic, we could subtract out most of diffraction common to both stellar images. The final images clearly reveal the circumstellar disk of \beta Pic extending the full width of the PC (34 arcseconds), sampling a disk radius \geq 750 A.U. The disk shows clear evidence of asymmetric flaring at larger distances from the star. There is also a surprizingly sharp peak in the intensity distribution corresponding to the plane of the circumstellar disk. This is consistemt with an almost edge-on viewing angle for the disk. A summary of our recent HST observations of other possible \beta Pic analogues are presented.
Program listing for Thursday