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Binarity of a protostar affects the evolution of the disk and planets


Nearly half of all stars similar to our Sun are in binary or multiple systems1, which may affect the evolution of the stars and their protoplanetary disks during their earliest stages. NGC 1333-IRAS2A is a young, Class 0, low-mass protostellar system located in the Perseus molecular cloud2. It is known to drive two bipolar outflows that are almost perpendicular to each other on the sky3,4 and is resolved into binary components, VLA1 and VLA2, through long wavelength continuum observations5. Here we report spatially and spectrally resolved observations of a range of molecular species. We compare these to detailed magnetohydrodynamic simulations: the comparisons show that inhomogeneous accretion onto the circumstellar disks occurs in episodic bursts, driving a wobbling jet. We conclude that binarity and multiplicity in general strongly affect the properties of the emerging stars, as well as the physical and chemical structures of the protoplanetary disks and therefore potentially any emerging planetary systems.

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Fig. 1: Thermal dust continuum emission towards NGC 1333-IRAS2A.
Fig. 2: Velocity maps of nine transitions of different molecules around VLA1.
Fig. 3: Evolution of simulated binaries.
Fig. 4: Schematic figure showing the quadruple radial-velocity structure.

Data availability

The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available in the ALMA archive, and are also available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Code availability

The MHD and gravity solvers used in this study are closely related to the public RAMSES version available at The numerical methods, developed in Copenhagen, relevant for star formation are described in ref. 31.


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This paper makes use of the following ALMA data: ADS/JAO.ALMA#2018.1.00427.S. ALMA is a partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO; representing its member states), National Science Federation (NSF; United States) and National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS; Japan), together with the National Research Council Canada (NRC; Canada), Ministry of Science and Technology and Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (MOST and ASIAA; Taiwan) and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI; Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, Associated Universities Inc./National Radio Astronomy Observatory (AUI/NRAO) and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). We acknowledge the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) for awarding us access to Curie at GENCI@CEA, France. Resources at the University of Copenhagen high-performance computing centre were used to carry out the data analysis and part of the modelling. J.K.J. acknowledges support from the Independent Research Fund Denmark (grant number DFF0135-00123B). R.L.K. received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 847523 ‘INTERACTIONS’. D.H. acknowledges support from the EACOA Fellowship from the East Asian Core Observatories Association. D.H. is supported by the Centre for Informatics and Computation in Astronomy (CICA) and grant number 110J0353I9 from the Ministry of Education of Taiwan. T.H. and R.L.K. acknowledge support from the Independent Research Fund Denmark through grant no. DFF8021-00350B. The research of L.E.K. is supported by a grant from VILLUM FONDEN (grant number 19127).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



J.K.J., L.E.K. and E.A.B. designed the ALMA proposal. D.H. and J.K.J. calibrated and analysed the resulting observations. R.L.K. and T.H. performed and analysed the MHD simulations. All authors contributed to the comparisons and discussions as well as the writing of the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jes K. Jørgensen.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature thanks Dominique Segura-Cox and the other, anonymous, reviewer for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Channel maps of the silicon monoxide emission at low velocities.

Each panel shows the integrated emission over 2 km s−1 intervals given in the top right corners. The contours are given in steps of 3σ in the integrated maps. The directions of the two outflows and their polarity from previous CO observations5 are indicated by the arrows. The dust continuum emission is seen as the greyscale background image.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Channel maps of the silicon monoxide emission at high velocities.

As in Fig. 1 for high velocities from 20 to 40 km s−1 relative to the systemic velocity.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Simulated Velocity moment-1 maps.

The panels show the density-weighted radial velocity maps convolved with a Gaussian beam with a FWHM radius of 18 au (annotated by the magenta circle in the top right of the first panel). This figure shows the nine best projections the quadrupole radial velocity structure is reproduced. The contours annotate the column density integrated along the line of sight in logarithmically spaced bins from 1024 to 1027 cm−2.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Density projections from simulations.

Projections along the x, y and z axis with a depth of 2,000 au of density. The vector field annotates the density-weighted velocity. The selected times are when a quadrupole RV structure was found around the primary component. The white box in the top left panel indicates the image size of the RV maps shown in Extended Data Fig. 3.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Silicon monoxide emission around VLA2.

As Extended Data Fig. 2 but zoomed-in at velocities between 20 and 30 km s−1 in 1 km s−1 intervals and on scales where the blue-shifted part of the jet from VLA2 can be seen.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Channel maps for sulfur dioxide emission.

As in Extended Data Figs. 12 but illustrating the importance of the VLA1 outflow on the transition of sulfur dioxide (SO2) also shown in Fig. 2.

Extended Data Table 1 Model properties for snapshots used to match with observations
Extended Data Table 2 Spectral setups

Supplementary information

Reporting Summary

Peer Review File

Supplementary Video 1 ( video representing MHD simulation B1* of the protostellar binary. The video shows density projections through the x, y and z axes of the simulation domain of B1*. The projected velocity is shown by the white arrows and the stars are indicated by the cyan and magenta crosses. The video contains annotations to highlight that the outflows that are launched move with the binary orbital motion, while several accretion flows feed the protobinary. Around a simulation time of 45,000 years the video highlights a filamentary bridge that is produced by the stellar interaction near periastron and stretched out by the orbital motion.

Supplementary Video 2 ( video representing MHD simulation B1 of the protostellar binary. Same as in Supplementary Video 1 but for simulation B1. A bridge is highlighted at a simulation time of 52,000 years.

Supplementary Video 3 ( video representing MHD simulation B2 of the protostellar binary. Same as in Supplementary Video 1 but for simulation B2. A bridge is highlighted at a simulation time of 99,000 years.

Supplementary Video 4 ( video representing MHD simulation B3 of the protostellar binary. Same as in Supplementary Video 1 but for simulation B3. A bridge is highlighted at a simulation time of 50,000 years.

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Jørgensen, J.K., Kuruwita, R.L., Harsono, D. et al. Binarity of a protostar affects the evolution of the disk and planets. Nature 606, 272–275 (2022).

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