Peering into the formation history of beta Pictoris b with long-baseline interferometry
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Context. β Pictoris is arguably one of the most studied stellar systems outside of our own. Some 30 yr of observations have revealed a highly-structured circumstellar disk, with rings, belts, and a giant planet: β Pictoris b. However very little is known about how this system came into being. Aims. Our objective is to estimate the C/O ratio in the atmosphere of β Pictoris b and obtain an estimate of the dynamical mass of the planet, as well as to refine its orbital parameters using
... using high-precision astrometry. Methods. We used the GRAVITY instrument with the four 8.2 m telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer to obtain K-band spectro-interferometric data on β Pic b. We extracted a medium resolution (R = 500) K-band spectrum of the planet and a high-precision astrometric position. We estimated the planetary C/O ratio using two different approaches (forward modeling and free retrieval) from two different codes (ExoREM and petitRADTRANS, respectively). Finally, we used a simplified model of two formation scenarios (gravitational collapse and core-accretion) to determine which can best explain the measured C/O ratio. Results. Our new astrometry disfavors a circular orbit for β Pic b (e = 0.15 +0.05 −0.04 ). Combined with previous results and with HIPPARCOS/Gaia measurements, this astrometry points to a planet mass of M = 12.7 ± 2.2 M Jup . This value is compatible with the mass derived with the free-retrieval code petitRADTRANS using spectral data only. The forward modeling and free-retrieval approches yield very similar results regarding the atmosphere of β Pic b. In particular, the C/O ratios derived with the two codes are identical (0.43 ± 0.05 vs. 0.43 +0.04 −0.03 ). We argue that if the stellar C/O in β Pic is Solar, then this combination of a very high mass and a low C/O ratio for the planet suggests a formation through core-accretion, with strong planetesimal enrichment.