Overshooting by differential heating⋆
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Karl-Schwarzschildstr. 1, 85748 Garching, Germany
Received: 8 October 2014
Accepted: 8 January 2015
On the long nuclear time scale of stellar main-sequence evolution, even weak mixing processes can become relevant for redistributing chemical species in a star. We investigate a process of “differential heating”, which occurs when a temperature fluctuation propagates by radiative diffusion from the boundary of a convection zone into the adjacent radiative zone. The resulting perturbation of the hydrostatic equilibrium causes a flow that extends some distance from the convection zone. We study a simplified differential-heating problem with a static temperature fluctuation imposed on a solid boundary. The astrophysically relevant limit of a high Reynolds number and a low Péclet number (high thermal diffusivity) turns out to be interestingly non-intuitive. We derive a set of scaling relations for the stationary differential heating flow. A numerical method adapted to a high dynamic range in flow amplitude needed to detect weak flows is presented. Our two-dimensional simulations show that the flow reaches a stationary state and confirm the analytic scaling relations. These imply that the flow speed drops abruptly to a negligible value at a finite height above the source of heating. We approximate the mixing rate due to the differential heating flow in a star by a height-dependent diffusion coefficient and show that this mixing extends about 4% of the pressure scale height above the convective core of a 10 M⊙ zero-age main sequence star.
Key words: convection / stars: evolution
Appendix A is available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2015