Protoplanetary Disk Dynamics

Planets Embedded in Transition Disks

Multiple planetary systems with large mutual inclinations have been observed, and shadows reveal inclined inner disks hiding within transition disk cavities.  Recently, I showed planets forming in a transition disk cavity can undergo a nodal secular resonance can excite the inner planet's inclination, explaining the large misalignments observed in some planetary systems.  This same mechanism can also tilt an inner disk, if a transition disk's cavity harbors a massive planet.  I also made testable predictions for the masses of putative planets hiding within a disk cavity, testable with high-constrast imaging.

Protoplanetary Disks in Star-Disk-Binary Systems

The bulk of my PhD research was focused on understanding the dynamics of planet-forming warped and eccentric protoplanetary disks with binary companions.  I wanted to determine under what conditions the binary's gravitational torque could misalign the host star's spin axis with the disk's orbital angular momentum axis (primordial misalignment), forming planets with orbital planes misaligned with the host star's equatorial plane (spin-orbit misalignment).  Invoking an inclined binary companion's gravitational torque was a leading theory to explain the formation of exoplanets with large stellar obliquities (angle between planet's orbital angular momentum and host star's spin vectors).  Key results include:

I was also involved in a collaboration lead by Prof. Simon Albrecht which found a retrograde (greater than 90 deg.) stellar obliquity in the K2 290 planetary system (publ. in PNAS), which confirmed some predictions I made.

Protoplanetary Disks Inclined to Eccentric Binary Stars

Few gaseous and debris disks orbiting binary stars that had large inclinations between the disk and binary's orbital planes, which tended to orbit eccentric binaries.  During my PhD, I showed gravitational torques from the eccentric binary and viscous torques from disk warping can drive the disk-binary inclination to 90 degrees (polar alignment).  After publication, more highly inclined circumbinary disks (such as GW Ori and HD 98800) were detected orbiting eccentric binaries, confirming my predictions.

The undergraduate Michael Poon (undergraduate CPS and SURP fellow at the University of Toronto) and I analyzed the KH 15D light-curve, which consists of an inner binary orbited by a warped protoplanetary disk which eclipses the binary as it precesses.  Combining photometry and radial velocity data with a dynamical model, we constrained the disk's annular extent, tilt, and precession period.

Right image credit: Michael Poon

Warped and Extended Circumplanetary Disk/Ring Systems

A number of stars have been observed with deep dips in the star's brightness (such as J1407, PDS 110, and VVV-WIT-07), tentatively interpreted as extended circumplanetary disk/ring systems transiting their host stars.  In order for rings to cause a transit signal, some force must stably tilt the rings out of the planet's orbital plane to resist the host star's tidal force.  During my PhD, I showed a spining planet with ring self-gravity could stably tilt an extended circumplanetary disk.  With Jessica Speedie (undergraduate SURP student from McMaster University, now graduate student at University of Victoria), we used N-body integrations to show the equilibrium tilted/warped ring system remained stable over the system's lifetime, but various secular instabilities naturally create observable gaps.

Image credit: Jessica Speedie


J. J. Zanazzi & Eugene Chiang; Sweeping Secular Resonances and Giant Planet Inclinations in Transition Discs.  2023, submitted to MNRAS.  PDF 

Hjorth M., Albrecht S., Hirano T., Winn J. N., Dawson R. I., Zanazzi J. J., et al.; A backward-spinning star with two coplanar planets.  2021, PNAS, 118, 2017418118.  PDF 

Michael Poon, J. J. Zanazzi, & Wei Zhu; Constraining the Circumbinary Disk Tilt in the KH 15D system.  2021, MNRAS, 503, 1599.  PDF 

Jessica Speedie & J. J. Zanazzi; The Stability of Extended Circumplanetary Disk and Ring Systems, with Applications to J1407b. 2020, MNRAS, 497, 1870.  PDF

J. J. Zanazzi & Dong Lai; Planet Formation in Disks with Inclined Binary Companions: Can Primordial Spin-Orbit Misalignment be Produced? 2018, MNRAS, 478, 835.  PDF

J. J. Zanazzi & Dong Lai; Effect of Disk Warp in Star-Disk-Binary Systems. 2018, MNRAS, 477, 5207.  PDF

J. J. Zanazzi & Dong Lai;  Inclination Evolution of Protoplanetary Disks around Eccentric Binaries. 2018, MNRAS, 473, 603.  PDF

J. J. Zanazzi & Dong Lai; The Lidov-Kozai Effect in Hydrodynamical Disks: Linear Stability Analysis. 2017, MNRAS, 467 (2): 1957-1964. PDF

J. J. Zanazzi & Dong Lai;  Extended Transiting Disks and Rings around Giant Planets and Brown Dwarfs: Theoretical Constraints.  2017, MNRAS, 464, 3945. PDF