Multiwavelength Transit Observations of the Candidate Disintegrating Planetesimals Orbiting WD 1145+017
(9 votes from 9 institutions)
We present multiwavelength, multi-telescope, ground-based follow-up photometry of the white dwarf WD 1145+017, that has recently been suggested to be orbited by up to six or more, short-period, low-mass, disintegrating planetesimals. We detect 9 significant dips in flux of between 10% and 30% of the stellar flux from our ground-based photometry. We observe transits deeper than 10% on average every ~3.6 hr in our photometry. This suggests that WD 1145+017 is indeed being orbited by multiple, short-period objects. Through fits to the multiple asymmetric transits that we observe, we confirm that the transit egress timescale is usually longer than the ingress timescale, and that the transit duration is longer than expected for a solid body at these short periods, all suggesting that these objects have cometary tails streaming behind them. The precise orbital periods of the planetesimals in this system are unclear from the transit-times, but at least one object, and likely more, have orbital periods of ~4.5 hours. We are otherwise unable to confirm the specific periods that have been reported, bringing into question the long-term stability of these periods. Our high precision photometry also displays low amplitude variations suggesting that dusty material is consistently passing in front of the white dwarf, either from discarded material from these disintegrating planetesimals or from the detected dusty debris disk. For the significant transits we observe, we compare the transit depths in the V- and R-bands of our multiwavelength photometry, and find no significant difference; therefore, for likely compositions the radius of single-size particles in the cometary tails streaming behind the planetesimals in this system must be ~0.15 microns or larger, or ~0.06 microns or smaller, with 2-sigma confidence.