S. Ertel, D. Kamath, M. Hillen, H. van Winckel, J. Okumura, R. Manick, H. M. J. Boffin, J. Milli, G. H.-M. Bertrang, L. Guzman-Ramirez, J. Horner, J. P. Marshall, P. Scicluna, A. Vaz, E. Villaver, R. Wesson, S. Xu. 2019. Resolved imaging of the AR Puppis circumbinary disk. The Astronomical Journal 157, 3, DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aafe04
Circumbinary disks are common around post-asymptotic giant branch (post-AGB) stars with a stellar companion on orbital timescales of a few 100 to few 1000 days. The presence of a disk is usually inferred from the system’s spectral energy distribution and confirmed, for a sub-sample, by interferometric observations. We used the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument on the Very Large Telescope to obtain extreme adaptive optics assisted scattered light images of the post-AGB binary system AR Puppis. Data have been obtained in the V, I, and H bands. Our observations have produced the first resolved images of AR Puppis’s circumbinary disk and confirm its edge-on orientation. In our high-angular-resolution and high-dynamic-range images we identify several structural components such as a dark mid-plane, the disk surface, and arc-like features. We discuss the nature of these components and use complementary photometric monitoring to relate them to the orbital phase of the binary system. Because the star is completely obscured by the disk at visible wavelengths, we conclude that the long-term photometric variability of the system must be caused by variable scattering, not extinction, of starlight by the disk over the binary orbit. Finally, we discuss how the short disk lifetimes and fast evolution of the host stars compared to the ages at which protoplanetary disks are typically observed make systems like AR Puppis valuable extreme laboratories to study circumstellar disk evolution and constrain the timescale of dust grain growth during the planet formation process.