EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 497, Number 3, April III 2009
Page(s) 869 - 888
Section Planets and planetary systems
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200811265
Published online 05 March 2009
A&A 497, 869-888 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200811265

Planet formation bursts at the borders of the dead zone in 2D numerical simulations of circumstellar disks

W. Lyra1, A. Johansen2, A. Zsom3, H. Klahr3, and N. Piskunov1

1  Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala Astronomical Observatory, Box 515, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
    e-mail: wlyra@astro.uu.se
2  Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
3  Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

Received 31 October 2008 / Accepted 23 February 2009

Context. As accretion in protoplanetary disks is enabled by turbulent viscosity, the border between active and inactive (dead) zones constitutes a location where there is an abrupt change in the accretion flow. The gas accumulation that ensues triggers the Rossby wave instability, which in turn saturates into anticyclonic vortices. It has been suggested that the trapping of solids within them leads to a burst of planet formation on very short timescales.
Aims. We study in the formation and evolution of the vortices in greater detail, focusing on the implications for the dynamics of embedded solid particles and planet formation.
Methods. We performed two-dimensional global simulations of the dynamics of gas and solids in a non-magnetized thin protoplanetary disk with the Pencil code. We used multiple particle species of radius 1, 10, 30, and 100 cm. We computed the particles' gravitational interaction by a particle-mesh method, translating the particles' number density into surface density and computing the corresponding self-gravitational potential via fast Fourier transforms. The dead zone is modeled as a region of low viscosity. Adiabatic and locally isothermal equations of state are used.
Results. The Rossby wave instability is triggered under a variety of conditions, thus making vortex formation a robust process. Inside the vortices, fast accumulation of solids occurs and the particles collapse into objects of planetary mass on timescales as short as five orbits. Because the drag force is size-dependent, aerodynamical sorting ensues within the vortical motion, and the first bound structures formed are composed primarily of similarly-sized particles. In addition to erosion due to ram pressure, we identify gas tides from the massive vortices as a disrupting agent of formed protoplanetary embryos. We find evidence that the backreaction of the drag force from the particles onto the gas modifies the evolution of the Rossby wave instability, with vortices being launched only at later times if this term is excluded from the momentum equation. Even though the gas is not initially gravitationally unstable, the vortices can grow to Q $\approx$ 1 in locally isothermal runs, which halts the inverse cascade of energy towards smaller wavenumbers. As a result, vortices in models without self-gravity tend to rapidly merge towards a m = 2 or m =1 mode, while models with self-gravity retain dominant higher order modes (m = 4 or m = 3) for longer times. Non-selfgravitating disks thus show fewer and stronger vortices. We also estimate the collisional velocity history of the particles that compose the most massive embryo by the end of the simulation, finding that the vast majority of them never experienced a collision with another particle at speeds faster than 1 m s-1. This result lends further support to previous studies showing that vortices provide a favorable environment for planet formation.

Key words: accretion, accretion disks -- hydrodynamics -- instabilities -- stars: planetary systems: formation -- methods: numerical -- turbulence

© ESO 2009

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