On fragmentation of turbulent self-gravitating discs in the long cooling time regime

Ken Rice, Sergei Nayakshin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has recently been suggested that in the presence of driven turbulence discs may be much less stable against gravitational collapse than their non-turbulent analogues, due to stochastic density fluctuations in turbulent flows. This mode of fragmentation would be especially important for gas giant planet formation. Here, we argue, however, that stochastic density fluctuations due to turbulence do not enhance gravitational instability and disc fragmentation in the long cooling time limit appropriate for planet forming discs. These fluctuations evolve adiabatically and dissipate away by decompression faster than they could collapse. We investigate these issues numerically in two dimensions via shearing box simulations with driven turbulence and also in three dimensions with a model of instantaneously applied turbulent velocity kicks. In the former setting turbulent driving leads to additional disc heating that tends to make discs more, rather than less, stable to gravitational instability. In the latter setting, the formation of high-density regions due to convergent velocity kicks is found to be quickly followed by decompression, as expected. We therefore conclude that driven turbulence does not promote disc fragmentation in protoplanetary discs and instead tends to make the discs more stable. We also argue that sustaining supersonic turbulence is very difficult in discs that cool slowly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-931
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2017


  • planets and satellites: formation
  • planets and satellites: gaseous planets
  • planets and satellites: general
  • brown dwarfs
  • stars: formation


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