A variable asymmetry in the circumstellar disk of HH 30

Karl R. Stapelfeldt, Alan M. Watson, John E. Krist, Christopher J. Burrows, David Crisp, Gilda E. Ballester, John T. Clarke, Robin W. Evans, John S. Gallagher, Richard E. Griffiths, J. Jeff Hester, John G. Hoessel, Jon A. Holtzman, Jeremy R. Mould, Paul Scowen, John T. Trauger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We report Hubble Space Telescope observations of variability within the reflection nebulosity of HH 30, a compact bipolar nebula that is a nearly edge-on accretion disk system. A dramatic lateral asymmetry appeared in the upper reflection nebula in the spring of 1998, but was largely absent in 1994 and 1995 images. The variability timescale is much shorter than disk dynamical timescales at the projected radius of the asymmetry, which indicates that its origin is a variable illumination pattern projected onto the outer disk by changes in the inner disk or the central star. Orbital motion of coherent clumps or voids in the inner disk at radii of a few AU might produce such an effect. Another possibility recently proposed is accretion hot spots near the star's magnetic poles which produce broad beams of light sweeping across the disk as the star rotates. Simulated images of a disk illuminated by such a central "lighthouse" are a reasonable match to the bright lateral asymmetry in the upper nebula of HH 30. However, a model with identical opposed hot spots is excluded by the absence of a prominent asymmetry in the lower reflection nebula. Further temporal monitoring of the system is needed to better characterize the nebular variability and establish its physical origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L95-L98
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 2
StatePublished - May 10 1999


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Stars: individual (HH 30)
  • Stars: pre-main-sequence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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