By 2001, over 900 candidate stars have been found to possess a debris disk. They are usually located by examining the star system in infrared light and looking for an excess of radiation beyond that emitted by the star. This excess is inferred to be radiation from the star that has been absorbed by the disk, then radiated away as infrared energy.
In certain cases the debris disks can be observed directly by occulting the primary star and then imaging the system.
By 1998 a debris disk had been located around the nearby star 55 Cancri, a system that is also known to contain a planet. Structures in the debris disk around Epsilon Eridani also suggest perturbations by a planetary body in orbit around that star, which may be used to constrain the mass and orbit of the planet.
For collisions to occur in a debris disk, the bodies must be gravitationally perturbed sufficiently to create relatively large collisional velocities. A planetary system around the star can cause such perturbations, as can a binary star companion or the close approach of another star.
|55 Cancri A||G8V||41||27–50|
|Pi1 Ursae Majoris||G1.5Vb||46.5||?|
|HR 4796 A||A0V||220||200|
|HD 113766 A||F4V||430||0.35–5.8|
The orbital distance of the belt is an estimated mean distance or range, based either on direct measurement from imaging or derived from the temperature of the belt. The Earth has an average distance from the Sun of 1 AU.