Searching for Planets Orbiting Fomalhaut with JWST/NIRCam

Marie Ygouf, Charles A. Beichman, Jorge Llop-Sayson, Geoffrey Bryden, Jarron M. Leisenring, András Gáspár, John E. Krist, Marcia J. Rieke, George H Rieke, Schuyler Grace Wolff, Thomas L. Roellig, Kate Su, Kevin N. Hainline, Klaus W. Hodapp, Thomas P. Greene, Michael R. Meyer, Douglas M. Kelly, Karl Misselt, John Stansberry, Martha BoyerDoug Johnstone, Scott Horner, Alexandra Z. Greenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report observations with the JWST/NIRCam coronagraph of the Fomalhaut (α PsA) system. This nearby A star hosts a complex debris disk system discovered by the IRAS satellite. Observations in F444W and F356W filters using the round 430R mask achieve a contrast ratio of ∼4 × 10−7 at 1″ and ∼4 × 10−8 outside of 3″. These observations reach a sensitivity limit of <1 M Jup across most of the disk region. Consistent with the hypothesis that Fomalhaut b is not a massive planet but is a dust cloud from a planetesimal collision, we do not detect it in either F356W or F444W (the latter band where a Jovian-sized planet should be bright). We have reliably detected 10 sources in and around Fomalhaut and its debris disk, all but one of which are coincident with Keck or Hubble Space Telescope sources seen in earlier coronagraphic imaging; we show them to be background objects, including the “Great Dust Cloud” identified in Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) data. However, one of the objects, located at the edge of the inner dust disk seen in the MIRI images, has no obvious counterpart in imaging at earlier epochs and has a relatively red [F356W]-[F444W] > 0.7 mag (Vega) color. Whether this object is a background galaxy, brown dwarf, or a Jovian-mass planet in the Fomalhaut system will be determined by an approved Cycle 2 follow-up program. Finally, we set upper limits to any scattered light from the outer ring, placing a weak limit on the dust albedo at F356W and F444W.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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