March 2019 • 2019A&A...623L..11G
Aims: To date, infrared interferometry at best achieved contrast ratios of a few times 10-4 on bright targets. GRAVITY, with its dual-field mode, is now capable of high contrast observations, enabling the direct observation of exoplanets. We demonstrate the technique on HR 8799, a young planetary system composed of four known giant exoplanets.
Methods: We used the GRAVITY fringe tracker to lock the fringes on the central star, and integrated off-axis on the HR 8799 e planet situated at 390 mas from the star. Data reduction included post-processing to remove the flux leaking from the central star and to extract the coherent flux of the planet. The inferred K band spectrum of the planet has a spectral resolution of 500. We also derive the astrometric position of the planet relative to the star with a precision on the order of 100 μas.
Results: The GRAVITY astrometric measurement disfavors perfectly coplanar stable orbital solutions. A small adjustment of a few degrees to the orbital inclination of HR 8799 e can resolve the tension, implying that the orbits are close to, but not strictly coplanar. The spectrum, with a signal-to-noise ratio of ≈5 per spectral channel, is compatible with a late-type L brown dwarf. Using Exo-REM synthetic spectra, we derive a temperature of 1150 ± 50 K and a surface gravity of 104.3 ± 0.3 cm s2. This corresponds to a radius of 1.17-0.11+0.13 RJup and a mass of 10-4+7 MJup, which is an independent confirmation of mass estimates from evolutionary models. Our results demonstrate the power of interferometry for the direct detection and spectroscopic study of exoplanets at close angular separations from their stars.