The Degree of Alignment between Circumbinary Disks and Their Binary Hosts

Ian Czekala, Eugene Chiang, Sean M. Andrews, Eric L.N. Jensen, Guillermo Torres, David J. Wilner, Keivan G. Stassun, Bruce Macintosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


All four circumbinary (CB) protoplanetary disks orbiting short-period (P <20 days) double-lined spectroscopic binaries (SB2s) - a group that includes UZ Tau E, for which we present new Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array data - exhibit sky-plane inclinations i disk that match, to within a few degrees, the sky-plane inclinations i of their stellar hosts. Although for these systems the true mutual inclinations θ between disk and binary cannot be directly measured because relative nodal angles are unknown, the near coincidence of i disk and i suggests that θ is small for these most compact of systems. We confirm this hypothesis using a hierarchical Bayesian analysis, showing that 68% of CB disks around short-period SB2s have θ <3.°0. Near coplanarity of CB disks implies near coplanarity of CB planets discovered by Kepler, which in turn implies that the occurrence rate of close-in CB planets is similar to that around single stars. By contrast, at longer periods ranging from 30 to 105 days (where the nodal degeneracy can be broken via, e.g., binary astrometry), CB disks exhibit a wide range of mutual inclinations, from coplanar to polar. Many of these long-period binaries are eccentric, as their component stars are too far separated to be tidally circularized. We discuss how theories of binary formation and disk-binary gravitational interactions can accommodate all these observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 20 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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