Infant protostar found with warped disk

I learned something new today. Reading through scientific research papers in Nature, I found a report about a "warped disk around an infant protostar." Having an only minimally greater-than-average understanding of astrophysics, I assumed that planets orbited around stars along their equator – at least for the most part. That's how our local cluster of planets works with our sun, and that's the way all the science models show it – it's simple. But what happens when oddities get in the way?

The research presented by Nami Sakai of the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research, Saitama, Japan, and crew, shows that not only do misalignments exist, they exist for more than just fully-formed stars. Previous researchers suggested that situations such as these – with fully formed stars – happened due to gravitational scattering (from local giant planets and/or companion stars). Previous understanding was that "fly-bys in stellar cluster environments" could contribute to these "misalignments" as well.

According to the paper, warped protostellar disks could play host to new planets. As the research suggests, "the misalignment could be natal." Such warped disk structures have previously appeared in both transition disks and protoplanetary disks. Until now, no warped disk structures have appeared around a protostar.

Researchers for this newest paper showed that not only was this possible – it was out there in the observable universe. "Here we report millimetre-wavelength dust continuum observations of the young embedded protostar IRAS 04368+2557 in the protostellar core L1527 at a distance of 137 parsecs; the protostar's disk is almost edge-on," says the paper. "The inner and outer parts of the disk have slightly different orbital planes, connected at 40 to 60 astronomical units from the star, but the disk has point symmetry with respect to the position of the protostar."

How strange – it's like a science fiction painting. It's like we're in Buck Rodgers or Star Wars, looking up at a space body that's not likely to exist anywhere else.

What these researchers suggest is that what they've found is indeed a true warped disk, rotationally supported, spinning around a protostar. They also suggest that only a couple of reasons for this warped disk exist, since no evidence for a companion source of gravity can be found. These reasons include "either anisotropic accretion of gas with different rotational axes, or misalignment of the rotation axis of the disk with the magnetic field direction."

If you'd like to learn more about this subject, head on over to the latest issue of the scientific publication Nature. The paper is called "A warped disk around an infant protostar" and it was authored by Nami Sakai, Tomoyuki Hanawa, Yichen Zhang, Aya E. Higuchi, Satoshi Ohashi, Yoko Oya, and Satoshi Yamamoto. This paper was published with DOI code (url) on December 31st, 2018.