Journal Article

The excitation of spiral density waves through turbulent fluctuations in accretion discs – I. WKBJ theory

T. Heinemann and J. C. B. Papaloizou

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 397, issue 1, pages 52-63
Published in print July 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The excitation of spiral density waves through turbulent fluctuations in accretion discs – I. WKBJ theory

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We study and elucidate the mechanism of spiral density wave excitation in a differentially rotating flow with turbulence which could result from the magneto-rotational instability. We formulate a set of wave equations with sources that are only non-zero in the presence of turbulent fluctuations. We solve these in a shearing box domain, subject to the boundary conditions of periodicity in shearing coordinates, using a WKBJ method. It is found that, for a particular azimuthal wavelength, the wave excitation occurs through a sequence of regularly spaced swings during which the wave changes from leading to trailing form. This is a generic process that is expected to occur in shearing discs with turbulence. Trailing waves of equal amplitude propagating in opposite directions are produced, both of which produce an outward angular momentum flux that we give expressions for as functions of the disc parameters and azimuthal wavelength.

By solving the wave amplitude equations numerically, we justify the WKBJ approach for a Keplerian rotation law for all parameter regimes of interest. In order to quantify the wave excitation completely, the important wave source terms need to be specified. Assuming conditions of weak non-linearity, these can be identified and are associated with a quantity related to the potential vorticity, being the only survivors in the linear regime. Under the additional assumption that the source has a flat power spectrum at long azimuthal wavelengths, the optimal azimuthal wavelength produced is found to be determined solely by the WKBJ response and is estimated to be 2πH, with H being the nominal disc scaleheight. In a following paper by Heinemann & Papaloizou, we perform direct three-dimensional simulations and compare results manifesting the wave excitation process and its source with the assumptions made and the theory developed here in detail, finding excellent agreement.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; turbulence; waves

Journal Article.  7712 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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