Featured Image: Misalignments in a Planetary Nursery

You’re looking at a photograph of a swirling disk of gas and dust that surrounds a star more than 500 light-years away. This stunning image (click for the full view!) of SU Aurigae’s circumstellar disk was brought to you by the ESO Very Large Telescope’s SPHERE instrument, which is working to capture up-close looks at planetary birthplaces like this one as part of the DESTINYS program. The results for SU Aur are presented in a recent publication led by Christian Ginski (University of Amsterdam and Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands). Here, the disk of SU Aur is resolved down to scales of just ~7 au, showing the extended dust structures around the young star in unprecedented detail. The image reveals the spiral structure of the disk and a shadow lane cast by an inner, misaligned disk component. These observations provide evidence that accretion can shape the disks around stars even in later stages of a star’s formation, possibly leading to planetary systems that have their spins and orbits misaligned. For more information, check out the annotated image and the authors’ original article below.

annotated version of the cover image marks the shadowed region and tails of dust.

Annotated VLT/SPHERE image of SU Aur. [Ginski et al. 2021]


“Disk Evolution Study Through Imaging of Nearby Young Stars (DESTINYS): Late Infall Causing Disk Misalignment and Dynamic Structures in SU Aur,” Christian Ginski et al 2021 ApJL 908 L25. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/abdf57