Journal Article

Are the outflows in FU Orionis systems driven by the stellar magnetic field?

Arieh Königl, Marina M. Romanova and Richard V. E. Lovelace

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 416, issue 1, pages 757-766
Published in print September 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online August 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Are the outflows in FU Orionis systems driven by the stellar magnetic field?

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FU Orionis (FUOR) outbursts are major optical brightening episodes in low-mass protostars that evidently correspond to rapid mass accretion events in the innermost region of a protostellar disc. The outbursts are accompanied by strong outflows, with the inferred mass outflow rates reaching ∼10 per cent of the mass inflow rates. Shu et al. proposed that the outflows represent accreted disc material that is driven centrifugally from the spun-up surface layers of the protostar by the stellar magnetic field. This model was critiqued by Calvet et al., who argued that it cannot reproduce the photospheric absorption-line shifts observed in the prototype object FU Ori. Calvet et al. proposed that the wind is launched, instead, from the surface of the disc on scales of a few stellar radii by a non-stellar magnetic field. In this paper we present results from numerical simulations of disc accretion on to a slowly rotating star with an aligned magnetic dipole moment that gives rise to a kilogauss-strength surface field. We demonstrate that, for parameters appropriate to FU Ori, such a system can develop a strong, collimated disc outflow of the type previously identified by Romanova et al. in simulations of protostars with low and moderate accretion rates. At the high accretion rate that characterizes the FUOR outburst phase, the radius rm at which the disc is truncated by the stellar magnetic field moves much closer to the stellar surface, but the basic properties of the outflow, which is launched from the vicinity of rm along opened-up stellar magnetic field lines, remain the same. These properties are distinct from those of the X-celerator (or the closely related X-wind) mechanism proposed by Shu et al. – in particular, the outflow is driven from the start by the magnetic pressure gradient force, not centrifugally, and it is more strongly collimated. We show that the simulated outflow can in principle account for the main observed characteristics of FUOR winds, including the photospheric line shifts measured in FU Ori. A detailed radiative-transfer calculation is, however, required to confirm the latter result.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; MHD; stars: formation; stars: magnetic field; stars: winds, outflows

Journal Article.  8143 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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