"This clear misalignment has given us a remarkable look at a young binary star system," said Rachel Akeson of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech, in Pasadena, Calif. "Although there have been earlier observations indicating that this type of misaligned system existed, the new ALMA observations of HK Tauri show much more clearly what is really going on in one of these systems."
NEWS: Weird, Out-Of-Whack Exoplanetary System Discovered
Now astronomers need to find more of these young star systems to see if misaligned protoplanetary disks are common, or if HK Tauri is an oddity. Though this discovery will force some tweaks to planetary formation models, it may help explan some of the crazy orbits of exoplanets that keep getting discovered.
As protoplanetary disks are the genesis of planetary formation, as planets emerge in stable orbits around their stars, any planets around misaligned binary stars could be gravitationally jostled, knocking them away from the orbital plane. As exoplanet-hunting projects like NASA's Kepler space telescope have shown, many exoplanets have wildly eccentric orbits that are hard to explain. But if they formed in a star system like HK Tauri, perhaps their origin has been uncovered. Still, many questions remain.