Publication: Self-regulated gravitational accretion in protostellar discs

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Title Self-regulated gravitational accretion in protostellar discs
Authors/Editors* E. I. Vorobyov, S. Basu
Where published* Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
How published* Journal
Year* 2007
Volume 381
Pages 1009-1017
Keywords accretion, accretion discs, hydrodynamics
We present a numerical model for the evolution of a protostellar disc that has formed self-consistently from the collapse of a molecular cloud core. The global evolution of the disc is followed for several million years after its formation. The capture of a wide range of spatial and temporal scales is made possible by use of the thin-disc approximation. We focus on the role of gravitational torques in transporting mass inward and angular momentum outward during different evolutionary phases of a protostellar disc with disc-to-star mass ratio of order 0.1. In the early phase, when the infall of matter from the surrounding envelope is substantial, mass is transported inward by the gravitational torques from spiral arms that are a manifestation of the envelope-induced gravitational instability in the disc. In the late phase, when the gas reservoir of the envelope is depleted, the distinct spiral structure is replaced by ongoing irregular nonaxisymmetric density perturbations. The amplitude of these density perturbations decreases with time, though this process is moderated by swing amplification aided by the existence of the disc's sharp outer edge. Our global modelling of the protostellar disc reveals that there is typically a residual nonzero gravitational torque from these density perturbations, i.e. their effects do not exactly cancel out in each region. In particular, the net gravitational torque in the inner disc tends to be negative during first several million years of the evolution, while the outer disc has a net positive gravitational torque. Our global model of a self-consistently formed disc shows that it is also self-regulated in the late phase, so that it is near the Toomre stability limit, with a near-uniform Toomre parameter Q=1.5-2.0. Since the disc also has near-Keplerian rotation, and comparatively weak temperature variation, it maintains a near-power-law surface density profile proportional to r^{-3/2}.
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