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A. N. Heinze, P. M. Hinz (University of Arizona)
We present the first results from a new infrared camera designed to search for extrasolar planets in the M and L' bands using the MMT adaptive optics system. Long exposure observations at the MMT have demonstrated that the camera/AO system/telescope combination has sufficient sensitivity to detect massive planets around nearby young stars.
We plan to carry out a survey to search for planets around 50 stars nearer than 25pc using this camera. This survey will be conducted primarily in the M band, and will be complementary to the near infrared JHK band searches currently being planned or carried out by other groups. Both M and JHK searches must target young stars so that any orbiting giant planets will still be glowing brightly from the gravitational heat of their creation. However, models indicate that planets fade more rapidly in the near infrared bands than in M. Therefore, JHK searches focus on very young stars, and since young stars are comparitively rare this means most of their targets are beyond 25pc. Our M band survey, by contrast, will focus on very nearby stars at more moderate ages. We expect to attain a sensitivity limit of 10 Jupiter masses or less for planets around every star in our sample. In some cases the limit will be lower than 5.
Our survey will probe larger orbital radii than radial velocity surveys, and will provide some of the first information about the frequency of occurence of planets in wider orbits. This will increase our understanding of how giant planets form and migrate, and thus how they influence the formation and evolution of planetary systems.
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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
© 2005. The American Astronomical Soceity.