Volume 520, September-October 2010
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Published online||23 September 2010|
Accretion-driven turbulence as universal process: galaxies, molecular clouds, and protostellar disks
Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg, Institut
für Theoretische Astrophysik, Albert-Ueberle-Str. 2, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Laboratoire de radioastronomie, UMR 8112 du CNRS, École normale supérieure et Observatoire de Paris, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 2 May 2010
Context. Even though turbulent motions are found everywhere in astrophysical systems, the origin of this turbulence is poorly understood. When cosmic structures form, they grow in mass via accretion from their surrounding environment.
Aims. We propose that accretion is able to drive internal turbulent motions in a wide range of astrophysical objects and study this process in the case of galaxies, molecular clouds, and protoplanetary disks.
Methods. We use a combination of numerical simulations and analytical arguments to predict the level of turbulence as a function of the accretion rate, the dissipation scale, and the density contrast, and compare our models with observational data.
Results. We find that in Milky Way type galaxies the observed level of turbulence in the interstellar medium can be explained by accretion, provided that the galaxies gain mass at a rate comparable to the rate at which they form stars. This process is particularly relevant in the extended outer disks beyond the star-forming radius. For it to drive turbulence in dwarf galaxies, the accretion rate needs to exceed the star formation rate by a large factor, so we expect other sources to dominate. We also calculate the rate at which molecular clouds grow in mass when they build up from the atomic component of the galactic gas and find that their internal turbulence is likely to be driven by accretion as well. It is the very process of cloud formation that excites turbulent motions on small scales by establishing the turbulent cascade. In the case of T Tauri disks, we show that accretion can drive subsonic turbulence if the rate at which gas falls onto the disk is comparable to the rate at which disk material accretes onto the central star. This also explains the observed relation of accretion rate and stellar mass, . The efficiency required to convert infall motion into turbulence is a few percent in all three cases.
Conclusions. We conclude that accretion-driven turbulence is a universal concept with far-reaching implications for a wide range of astrophysical objects.
Key words: accretion, accretion disks / turbulence / ISM: kinematics and dynamics / galaxies: kinematic and dynamics / planetary systems: protoplanetary disks / galaxies: ISM
© ESO, 2010
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