EXTRASOLAR ANALOGUES TO THE KUIPER BELT


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Abstract

Debris disks are found around some 15% of main sequence stars and their dust is thought to be continually replenished in collisions between planetesimals in extrasolar Kuiper belts. While they were discovered in 1984 by IRAS, it is only with more recent imaging that their true nature has been revealed. This paper discusses recent debris disk images and their impact on our understanding of extrasolar systems. Importantly these images confirm the extrasolar Kuiper belt hypothesis for most (but not all) debris disk candidates and show that the planetesimals within these disks must have grown to at least a few km. Asymmetries in imaged disk structures also provide information about the planetary systems orbiting inside these planetesimal belts. The impact of debris disk studies on our understanding of the evolution of our own Kuiper belt, as well as their potential to solve puzzles such as the origin of the missing mass and the outer edge of the Kuiper belt, is also discussed.

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