Academic Article


  • The Kepler satellite has discovered a number of transiting planets around close binary stars. These circumbinary systems have highly aligned planetary and binary orbits. In this paper, we explore how the mutual inclination between the planetary and binary orbits may reflect the physical conditions of the assembly of protoplanetary disks and the interaction between protostellar binaries and circumbinary disks. Given the turbulent nature of star-forming molecular clouds, it is possible that the gas falling onto the outer region of a circumbinary disk and the central protostellar binary have different axes of rotation. Thus, the newly assembled circumbinary disk can be misaligned with respect to the binary. However, the gravitational torque from the binary produces a warp and twist in the disk, and the back-reaction torque tends to align the disk and the binary orbital plane. We present a new, analytic calculation of this alignment torque, and show that the binary-disk inclination angle can be reduced appreciably after the binary accretes a few percent of its mass from the disk. Our calculation suggests that in the absence of other disturbances, circumbinary disks and planets around close (sub-AU) stellar binaries, for which mass accretion onto the proto-binary is very likely to have occurred, are expected to be highly aligned with the binary orbits, while disks and planets around wide binaries can be misaligned. Measurements of the mutual inclinations of circumbinary planetary systems can provide a clue to the birth environments of such systems.
  • Authors

  • Foucart, Francois
  • Lai, Dong
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • February 10, 2013
  • Has Subject Area


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • binaries: general
  • hydrodynamics
  • planetary systems
  • protoplanetary disks
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 106
  • End Page

  • 106
  • Volume

  • 764
  • Issue

  • 1