Searching for giant planets in the outer Solar System with far-infrared all-sky surveys

Sedgwick, Chris and Serjeant, Stephen (2022). Searching for giant planets in the outer Solar System with far-infrared all-sky surveys. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 515(4) pp. 4828–4837.



We have explored a method for finding giant planets in the outer Solar System by detecting their thermal emission and proper motion between two far-infrared all-sky surveys separated by 23.4 years, taken with the InfraRed Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and the AKARI Space Telescope. An upper distance limit of about 8000 AU is given by both the sensitivities of these surveys and the distance at which proper motion becomes too small to be detected. This paper covers the region from 8000 AU to 700 AU. We have used a series of filtering and SED-fitting algorithms to find candidate pairs, whose IRAS and AKARI flux measurements could together plausibly be fitted by a Planck thermal distribution for a likely planetary temperature. Theoretical studies have placed various constraints on the likely existence of unknown planets in the outer Solar system. The main observational constraint to date comes from a WISE study: an upper limit on an unknown planet’s mass out into the Oort cloud. Our work confirms this result for our distance range, and provides additional observational constraints for lower distances and planetary masses, subject to the proviso that the planet is not confused with Galactic cirrus. We found 535 potential candidates with reasonable spectral energy distribution (SED) fits. Most would have masses close to or below that of Neptune (∼0.05 Jupiter mass), and be located below 1000 AU. However, examination of the infrared images of these candidates suggests that none is sufficiently compelling to warrant follow-up, since all are located inside or close to cirrus clouds, which are most likely the source of the far-infrared flux.

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