Direct Imaging of Bridged Twin Protoplanetary Disks in a Young Multiple Star

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Science  15 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5963, pp. 306-308
DOI: 10.1126/science.1179679

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Planetary Midwifery

Planets form from the materials left behind after a star is formed. Unlike the Sun, most stars are members of binary systems. Mayama et al. (p. 306, published online 19 November) present an infrared image of the protoplanetary disks around a young binary star system taken with the coronagraph mounted on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. Each individual disk is clearly visible around its star, and comparison with numerical simulations suggests that there could be gas flow from one disk to the other. The nature of this potential gas flow is important in determining where planets could form in binary systems.


Studies of the structure and evolution of protoplanetary disks are important for understanding star and planet formation. Here we present the direct image of an interacting binary protoplanetary system. Both circumprimary and circumsecondary disks are resolved in the near-infrared. There is a bridge of infrared emission connecting the two disks and a long spiral arm extending from the circumprimary disk. Numerical simulations show that the bridge corresponds to gas flow and a shock wave caused by the collision of gas rotating around the primary and secondary stars. Fresh material streams along the spiral arm, consistent with the theoretical scenarios in which gas is replenished from a circummultiple reservoir.

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