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Mapping of shadows cast on a protoplanetary disk by a close binary system


For a comprehensive understanding of planetary formation and evolution, we need to investigate the environment in which planets form: circumstellar disks. Here we present high-contrast imaging observations of V4046 Sagittarii, a 20-Myr-old close binary known to host a circumbinary disk. We have discovered the presence of rotating shadows in the disk, caused by mutual occultations of the central binary. Shadow-like features are often observed in disks1,2, but those found thus far have not been due to eclipsing phenomena. We have used the phase difference due to light travel time to measure the flaring of the disk and the geometrical distance of the system. We calculate a distance that is in very good agreement with the value obtained from the Gaia mission’s Data Release 2 (DR2), and flaring angles of α = (6.2 ± 0.6)° and α = (8.5 ± 1.0)° for the inner and outer disk rings, respectively. Our technique opens up a path to explore other binary systems, providing an independent estimate of distance and the flaring angle, a crucial parameter for disk modelling.

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Fig. 1: Comparison of IFS observations for 2015 (YJ bands) and 2017 (YH band) after a PCA algorithm (with 100 modes) has been applied to remove quasi-static speckles.
Fig. 2: Simplified sketch of the shadow phenomenon.
Fig. 3: Polarized IRDIS H-band observations.

Data availability

All the data are publicly available through the ESO archive ( The data that supports the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We thank the ESO Paranal Staff for support for conducting the observations. E.S., R.G., D.M. and S.D. acknowledge support from the ‘Progetti Premiali’ funding scheme of the Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research. D.M. acknowledges support from the ESO-Government of Chile Joint Committee program ‘Direct imaging and characterization of exoplanets’. E.R. is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 664931. This work has been supported by the project PRIN-INAF 2016 The Cradle of Life—GENESIS-SKA (General Conditions in Early Planetary Systems for the rise of life with SKA). A.Z. acknowledges support from the CONICYT + PAI/Convocatoria nacional subvención a la instalación en la academia, convocatoria 2017 + Folio PAI77170087. The authors acknowledge financial support from the Programme National de Planétologie (PNP) and the Programme National de Physique Stellaire (PNPS) of CNRS-INSU. This work has also been supported by a grant from the French Labex OSUG@2020 (Investissements d’avenir—ANR10 LABX56). The project is supported by CNRS, by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-14-CE33-0018). This work is partly based on data products produced at the SPHERE Data Centre hosted at OSUG/IPAG, Grenoble. We thank P. Delorme and E. Lagadec (SPHERE Data Centre) for their help during the data reduction process. SPHERE is an instrument designed and built by a consortium consisting of IPAG (Grenoble, France), MPIA (Heidelberg, Germany), LAM (Marseille, France), LESIA (Paris, France), Laboratoire Lagrange (Nice, France), INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova (Italy), Observatoire de Genève (Switzerland), ETH Zurich (Switzerland), NOVA (Netherlands), ONERA (France) and ASTRON (Netherlands) in collaboration with ESO. SPHERE was funded by ESO, with additional contributions from CNRS (France), MPIA (Germany), INAF (Italy), FINES (Switzerland) and NOVA (Netherlands). SPHERE also received funding from the European Commission Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes as part of the Optical Infrared Coordination Network for Astronomy (OPTICON) under grant no. RII3-Ct-2004-001566 for FP6 (2004-2008), grant no. 226604 for FP7 (2009-2012) and grant no. 312430 for FP7 (2013-2016). This work made extensive use of the SIMBAD and NASA ADS databases.

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V.D’O., R.Gr., S.De., H.A., T.St., E.G., E.R., E.S. and T.Sca. analysed the SPHERE data and prepared the manuscript and the figures. D.Mo., W.B., D. Me., G.S., A.B. and A.M.L. performed the observations in 2015 and 2017. T.B., E.B., S.Da., R.Ga., J.H., J.L., M.L., A.-L.M., S.P., C.P., L.R. and T.Sch. reduced the data as part of the SPHERE Data Reduction team in the framework of the SPHERE GTO. S.B. and M.D. performed the orbital period analysis. M.Be., A.B., M.Bo., J.G., H.J.-C., M.J., Q.K., F.M., J.E.S., J.S., C.T., P.T., G.v.d.P., A.V. and A.Z. contributed to the discussion of the results with helpful and fundamental comments and suggestions. G.C. and M.F. are key people of the SHINE survey carried out with SPHERE. O.M.-N., R.R., P.R., A.R. and J.R. are SPHERE builders.

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Correspondence to V. D’Orazi.

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Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Figures 1–4

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D’Orazi, V., Gratton, R., Desidera, S. et al. Mapping of shadows cast on a protoplanetary disk by a close binary system. Nat Astron 3, 167–172 (2019).

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