UV-optical Emission of AB Aur b Is Consistent with Scattered Stellar Light

Yifan Zhou*, Brendan P. Bowler, Haifeng Yang, Aniket Sanghi, Gregory J. Herczeg, Adam L. Kraus, Jaehan Bae, Feng Long, Katherine B. Follette, Kimberly Ward-Duong, Zhaohuan Zhu, Lauren Biddle, Laird M. Close, Lillian Yushu Jiang, Ya Lin Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The proposed protoplanet AB Aur b is a spatially concentrated emission source imaged in the millimeter-wavelength disk gap of the Herbig Ae/Be star AB Aur. Its near-infrared spectrum and absence of strong polarized light have been interpreted as evidence supporting the protoplanet interpretation. However, the complex scattered-light structures in the AB Aur disk pose challenges in resolving the emission source and interpreting the true nature of AB Aur b. We present new images of the AB Aur system obtained using the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 in the ultraviolet (UV) and optical bands. AB Aur b and the known disk spirals are recovered in the F336W, F410M, and F645N bands. The spectral energy distribution of AB Aur b shows absorption in the Balmer jump, mimicking that of early-type stars. By comparing the colors of AB Aur b to those of the host star, the disk spirals, and predictions from scattered light and self-luminous models, we find that the emission from AB Aur b is inconsistent with planetary photospheric or accretion shock models. Instead, it is consistent with those measured in the circumstellar disks that trace scattered light. We conclude that the UV and visible emission from AB Aur b does not necessitate the presence of a protoplanet. We synthesize observational constraints on AB Aur b and discuss inconsistent interpretations among different data sets. Considering the significance of the AB Aur b discovery, we advocate for further observational evidence to verify its planetary nature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number220
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Dec 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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