Annular structures (rings and gaps) in disks around pre-main-sequence stars have been detected in abundance towards class II protostellar objects that are approximately 1,000,000 years old1. These structures are often interpreted as evidence of planet formation1–3, with planetary-mass bodies carving rings and gaps in the disk4. This implies that planet formation may already be underway in even younger disks in the class I phase, when the protostar is still embedded in a larger-scale dense envelope of gas and dust5. Only within the past decade have detailed properties of disks in the earliest star-forming phases been observed6,7. Here we report 1.3-millimetre dust emission observations with a resolution of five astronomical units that show four annular substructures in the disk of the young (less than 500,000 years old)8 protostar IRS 63. IRS 63 is a single class I source located in the nearby Ophiuchus molecular cloud at a distance of 144 parsecs9, and is one of the brightest class I protostars at millimetre wavelengths. IRS 63 also has a relatively large disk compared to other young disks (greater than 50 astronomical units)10. Multiple annular substructures observed towards disks at young ages can act as an early foothold for dust-grain growth, which is a prerequisite of planet formation. Whether or not planets already exist in the disk of IRS 63, it is clear that the planet-formation process begins in the initial protostellar phases, earlier than predicted by current planet-formation theories11.
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