Binary companions triggering fragmentation in self-gravitating discs

James Cadman*, Cassandra Hall, Clémence Fontanive, Ken Rice

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Observations of systems hosting close in (<1 AU) giant planets and brown dwarfs (M ≳ 7 MJup) find an excess of binary star companions, indicating that stellar multiplicity may play an important role in their formation. There is now increasing evidence that some of these objects may have formed via fragmentation in gravitationally unstable discs. We present a suite of 3D smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) simulations of binary star systems with circumprimary self-gravitating discs, which include a realistic approximation to radiation transport, and extensively explore the companion’s orbital parameter space for configurations which may trigger fragmentation. We identify a ‘sweet spot’ where intermediate separation binary companions (100 AU ≲ a ≲ 400 AU) can cause a marginally stable disc to fragment. The exact range of ideal binary separations is a function of the companion’s eccentricity, inclination and mass. Heating is balanced by efficient cooling, and fragmentation occurs inside a spiral mode driven by the companion. Short separation, disc penetrating binary encounters (a ≲ 100 AU) are prohibitive to fragmentation, as mass stripping and disc heating quench any instability. This is also true of binary companions with high orbital eccentricities (e ≳ 0.75). Wide separation companions (a ≳ 500 AU) have little effect on the disc properties for the setup parameters considered here. The sweet spot found is consistent with the range of binary separations which display an excess of close in giant planets and brown dwarfs. Hence we suggest that fragmentation triggered by a binary companion may contribute to the formation of these substellar objects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-471
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • accretion, accretion discs
  • gravitation
  • instabilities
  • planets and satellites: formation
  • stars: formation


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