Fragmentation favoured in discs around higher mass stars

James Cadman, Ken Rice, Cassandra Hall, Thomas J. Haworth, Beth Biller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate how a protoplanetary disc’s susceptibility to gravitational instabilities and fragmentation depends on the mass of its host star. We use 1D disc models in conjunction with 3D SPH simulations to determine the critical disc-to-star mass ratios at which discs become unstable against fragmentation, finding that discs become increasingly prone to the effects of self-gravity as we increase the host star mass. The actual limit for stability is sensitive to the disc temperature, so if the disc is optically thin stellar irradiation can dramatically stabilise discs against gravitational instability. However, even when this is the case we find that discs around 2 M⊙ stars are prone to fragmentation, which will act to produce wide-orbit giant planets and brown dwarfs. The consequences of this work are two-fold: that low mass stars could in principle support high disc-to-star mass ratios, and that higher mass stars have discs that are more prone to fragmentation, which is qualitatively consistent with observations that favour high-mass wide-orbit planets around higher mass stars. We also find that the initial masses of these planets depends on the temperature in the disc at large radii, which itself depends on the level of stellar irradiation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2020


  • astro-ph.EP
  • astro-ph.GA
  • astro-ph.SR


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