Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mass transfer in circumstellar disks

The left graphic is a near-infrared image of the heirachical star system SR24. The lower object is the star SR24S, and the nebulosity surrounding it is a protoplanetary disk that is composed mostly of hydrogen gas plus some dust. The stellar contribution to this image has been subtracted, which is why the disk appear dark in its center. The upper object SR24N is actually an unresolved binary star; that binary also has its own circumbinary disk such that the SR24N stellar pair + disk orbits the SR24S star + disk. The right graphic is a computer simulation of this system, which reveals that these two disks can transfer mass between each other through a `bridge' that passes through this system's L1 Lagrange point, which is one of three sites in this system where gravity + Coriolis forces balance to zero. Observations such as this will hopefully reveal whether binary stars might one day form planets, or if their disks are too disturbed to produce planets. This image was acquire by Satoshi Mayami at the Subaru Telescope. A preprint on this work is also available.

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