Journal Article

Dust settling in magnetorotationally driven turbulent discs – I. Numerical methods and evidence for a vigorous streaming instability

Dinshaw S. Balsara, David A. Tilley, Terrence Rettig and Sean D. Brittain

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 397, issue 1, pages 24-43
Published in print July 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.14606.x
Dust settling in magnetorotationally driven turbulent discs – I. Numerical methods and evidence for a vigorous streaming instability

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In this paper, we have used the riemann code for computational astrophysics to study the interaction of a realistic distribution of dust grains with gas at specific radial locations in a vertically stratified protostellar accretion disc. The disc was modelled to have the density and temperature of a minimum mass solar nebula, and shearing box simulations at radii of 0.3 and 10 au are reported here. The disc was driven to a fully developed turbulence via the magnetorotational instability (MRI). The simulations span three gas scaleheights about the disc's midplane. We find that the inclusion of standard dust-to-gas ratios does not have any significant effect on the MRI even when the dust sediments to the midplane of the accretion disc. The density distribution of the dust of all sizes reached a Gaussian profile within two scaleheights of the disc's midplane. The vertical scaleheights of these Gaussian profiles are shown to be proportional to the reciprocal of the square root of the dust radius when large spherical dust grains are considered. This result is consistent with theoretical expectation.

The largest two families of dust in one of our simulations show a strong tendency to settle to the midplane of the accretion disc. The large dust tends to organize itself into elongated clumps of high density. The dynamics of these clumps is shown to be consistent with a streaming instability. The streaming instability is seen to be very vigorous and persistent once it forms. Each stream of high-density dust displays a reduced rms velocity dispersion. The velocity directions within the streams are also aligned relative to the mean shear, providing further evidence that we are witnessing a streaming instability. The densest clumpings of large dust are shown to form where the streams intersect.

We have also shown that the mean free path and collision time for dust that participates in the streaming instability are reduced by almost two orders of magnitude relative to the average mean free paths and collision times. The rms velocities between the grains also need to fall below a minimum threshold in order for the grains to stick and we show that a small amount of the large dust in our 10 au simulation should have a propensity for grain coalescence. The results of our simulations are likely to be useful for those who model spectral energy distributions of protostellar discs and also for those who model dust coagulation and growth.

Keywords: instabilities; MHD; turbulence; methods: numerical; planetary systems: protoplanetary discs

Journal Article.  12214 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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