The Anatomy of an Unusual Edge-on Protoplanetary Disk. I. Dust Settling in a Cold Disk

Schuyler G. Wolff, Gaspard Duchêne, Karl R. Stapelfeldt, Francois Ménard, Christian Flores, Deborah Padgett, Christophe Pinte, Marion Villenave, Gerrit Van Der Plas, Marshall D. Perrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


As the earliest stage of planet formation, massive, optically thick, and gas-rich protoplanetary disks provide key insights into the physics of star and planet formation. When viewed edge-on, high-resolution images offer a unique opportunity to study both the radial and vertical structures of these disks and relate this to vertical settling, radial drift, grain growth, and changes in the midplane temperatures. In this work, we present multi-epoch Hubble Space Telescope and Keck scattered light images, and an Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array 1.3 mm continuum map for the remarkably flat edge-on protoplanetary disk SSTC2DJ163131.2-242627, a young solar-type star in ρ Ophiuchus. We model the 0.8 μm and 1.3 mm images in separate Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) runs to investigate the geometry and dust properties of the disk using the MCFOST radiative transfer code. In scattered light, we are sensitive to the smaller dust grains in the surface layers of the disk, while the submillimeter dust continuum observations probe larger grains closer to the disk midplane. An MCMC run combining both data sets using a covariance-based log-likelihood estimation was marginally successful, implying insufficient complexity in our disk model. The disk is well characterized by a flared disk model with an exponentially tapered outer edge viewed nearly edge-on, though some degree of dust settling is required to reproduce the vertically thin profile and lack of apparent flaring. A colder than expected disk midplane, evidence for dust settling, and residual radial substructures all point to a more complex radial density profile to be probed with future, higher-resolution observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number238
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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