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Session 70 - Searching for Other Planetary Systems.
Display session, Wednesday, January 17
North Banquet Hall, Convention Center

[70.15] An External View of Our Solar System from SIRTF

M. W. Werner (JPL/Caltech), D. E. Backman (FandM), G. H. Rieke (U.Arizona), J. Van Cleve (Cornell)

Planetary debris disks, the particulate clouds discovered by IRAS around nearby main sequence stars like Vega and Beta Pictoris, are likely signposts of planetary systems. Within our solar system, the Kuiper Belt appears to be the closest analog to the debris disks studied by IRAS. We show that the dust density in the Kuiper Belt implied by the models of Backman et al is higher in the region exterior to Neptune than is the dust density in the solar vicinity. This morphology is reminiscent of the central voids inferred for the Vega and Beta Pictoris disks from their energy distributions and suggests a link between the presence of the voids and planet-sized objects orbiting at their outer edges.

The Space Infrared Telescope Facility - SIRTF - will be able to make detailed imaging, spectroscopic, and photometric studies of debris disks around thosands of stars. We show that SIRTF could image Kuiper Belt systems around the nearest solar-type stars, if these stars have dust systems resembling our best estimate of that associated with the sun. Debris disks like that around Beta Pictoris could be seen by SIRTF around stars out to 1Kpc. These studies from SIRTF can greatly expand the number of candidate planetary systems once the connection between debris disks and planets has been established by thorough observations of our solar system and of the nearby stars. Finally, we briefly discuss the full range of SIRTF's scientific and technical contributions to the unfolding search for extra-solar planetary systems.

Portions of this research were carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA.

Program listing for Wednesday