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Scattered light shadows in warped protoplanetary discs

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journal contribution
posted on 23.05.2019, 15:18 by R Nealon, P Christophe, R Alexander, D Mentiplay, G Dipierro
3D hydrodynamic numerical simulations have demonstrated that the structure of a protoplanetary disc may be strongly affected by a planet orbiting in a plane that is misaligned to the disc. When the planet is able to open a gap, the disc is separated into an inner, precessing disc and an outer disc with a warp. In this work, we compute infrared scattered light images to investigate the observational consequences of such an arrangement. We find that an inner disc misaligned by less than a degree to the outer disc is indeed able to cast a shadow at larger radii. In our simulations, a planet of 6 MJ inclined by 2◦ is enough to warp the disc and cast a shadow with a depth of 10 per cent of the average flux at that radius. We also demonstrate that the warp in the outer disc can cause a variation in the azimuthal brightness profile at large radii. Importantly, this latter effect is a function of the distance from the star and is most prominent in the outer disc. We apply our model to the TW Hya system, where a misaligned, precessing inner disc has been invoked to explain a recently observed shadow in the outer disc. Consideration of the observational constraints suggests that an inner disc precessing due to a misaligned planet is an unlikely explanation for the features found in TW Hya.


This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 681601). DM is funded by a Research Training Program Stipend from the Australian government. This work was performed using the DiRAC Data Intensive service at Leicester, operated by the University of Leicester IT Services, which forms part of the STFC DiRAC HPC Facility ( The equipment was funded by BEIS capital funding via STFC capital grants ST/K000373/1 and ST/R002363/1 and STFC DiRAC Operations grant ST/R001014/1. DiRAC is part of the National e-Infrastructure. Fig. 1 and the upper panels of Fig. 3 were plotted with SPLASH (Price 2007). All other figures were produced using the community open-source PYTHON package Matplotlib (Hunter 2007).



Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2019, 484(4), pp. 4951–4962

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Physics and Astronomy


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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


Oxford University Press (OUP), Royal Astronomical Society



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