Spitzer Space Telescope observations of the Helix Nebula's hot (T eff 110 000 K) central star revealed mid-IR excess emission consistent with a continuum emission from a dust disk located at 35-150 AU from the central white dwarf (WD), and the dust is most likely produced by collisions among Kuiper Belt-like objects (Su et al. 2007). To determine how common such dust disks are, we have carried out a Spitzer 24 μm survey of 72 hot WDs, and detected at least 7 WDs that exhibit clear IR excess, all of them still surrounded by planetary nebulae (PNe). Inspired by the prevalence of PN environment for hot WDs showing IR excesses, we have surveyed the Spitzer archive for more central stars of PN (CSPNs) with IR excesses; the search yields four cases in which CSPNs show excesses in 3.6-8.0 μm, and one additional case of 24 μm excess. We present the results of these two searches for dust-disk candidates, and discuss scenarios other than KBO collisions that need to be considered in explaining the observed near and/or mid-IR excess emission. These scenarios include unresolved companions, binary post-AGB evolution, and unresolved compact nebulosity. We describe planned follow-up observations aiming to help us distinguish between different origins of observed IR excesses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)