The protoplanetary system HD 100546 in H alpha polarized light from SPHERE/ZIMPOL

I. Mendigutía, R.D. Oudmaijer, A. Garufi, S.L. Lumsden, N. Huélamo, A. Cheetham, W.J. de Wit, B. Norris, F.A. Olguin, P. Tuthill. 2017. The protoplanetary system HD 100546 in H alpha polarized light from SPHERE/ZIMPOL. Astronomy and Astrophysics 608 DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201731131

HD 100546 is one of the few known pre-main-sequence stars that may host a planetary system in its disk.

Aims. This work aims to contribute to our understanding of HD 100546 by analyzing new polarimetric images with high spatial resolution.

Methods. Using VLT/SPHERE/ZIMPOL with two filters in H alpha and the adjacent continuum, we have probed the disk gap and the surface layers of the outer disk, covering a region < 500 mas (< 55 au at 109 pc) from the central star, at an angular resolution of similar to 20 mas.

Results. Our data show an asymmetry: the SE and NW regions of the outer disk are more polarized than the SW and NE regions. This asymmetry can be explained from a preferential scattering angle close to 90 degrees and is consistent with previous polarization images. The outer disk in our observations extends from 13 +/- 2 to 45 +/- 9 au, with a position angle and inclination of 137 +/- 5 degrees and 44 +/- 8 degrees, respectively. The comparison with previous estimates suggests that the disk inclination could increase with the stellocentric distance, although the different measurements are still consistent within the error bars. In addition, no direct signature of the innermost candidate companion is detected from the polarimetric data, confirming recent results that were based on intensity imagery. We set an upper limit to its mass accretion rate < 10(-8) M circle dot yr(-1) for a substellar mass of 15 M-Jup. Finally, we report the first detection (> 3 sigma) of a similar to 20 au bar-like structure that crosses the gap through the central region of HD 100546.

Conclusions. In the absence of additional data, it is tentatively suggested that the bar could be dust dragged by infalling gas that radially flows from the outer disk to the inner region. This could represent an exceptional case in which a small-scale radial inflow is observed in a single system. If this scenario is confirmed, it could explain the presence of atomic gas in the inner disk that would otherwise accrete on to the central star on a timescale of a few months/years, as previously indicated from spectro-interferometric data, and could be related with additional (undetected) planets.

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