NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011A-0595

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Proposal Information for 2011A-0595


PI: Brendan Bowler, University of Hawai'i, bpbowler@ifa.hawaii.edu
Address: Institute for Astronomy, 2680 Woodlawn Dr., Honolulu, HI 96822, United States

CoI: Michael Liu, University of Hawai'i
CoI: Adam Kraus, University of Hawai'i
CoI: Michael Ireland, University of Sydney
CoI: Zahed Wahhaj, University of Hawai'i

Title: An Efficient Search for Young Wide Planetary-Mass Companions

Abstract: A handful of planetary-mass objects (\lesssim13 M_Jup) have recently been found around young stars at large separations (100-500 AU). The nature of these companions is unclear as core accretion and gravitational instability have difficulty forming planets at these large separations, while cloud collapse models do not produce such extreme binaries. Moreover, there are few observational constraints on the occurrence rate and demographics of these objects, making any comparison to theory difficult. We propose a large but fast direct imaging search for planetary-mass companions on wide orbits around stars in the 1-5 Myr Sco-Oph complex with the unique dual-channel imager NICI on Gemini South. The extreme youth of our targets allow us to achieve detection limits of ~2-5 M_Jup between 150-500 AU. Based on results from previous smaller surveys, we expect to discover 2-4 new planetary-mass objects on wide orbits, thereby increasing the size of this population by a factor of 50-100%. Ongoing and future direct imaging searches will mostly be blind to this population of giant planets because of their limited fields of view, so our survey probes a range of parameter space that will remain unique for the foreseeable future. Regardless of their origin, these objects will be very beneficial for spectroscopic studies of low temperature, low gravity objects.


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