Testing the locality of transport in self-gravitating accretion discs - II. The massive disc case

G. Lodato, W. K. M. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we extend our previous analysis (Paper I) of the transport properties induced by gravitational instabilities in cooling, gaseous accretion discs to the case where the disc mass is comparable to the central object. In order to do so, we have performed global, three-dimensional smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations of massive discs. These new simulations show a much more complex temporal evolution with respect to the less massive case. Whereas in the case of low disc mass a self-regulated, marginally stable state (characterized by an approximately constant radial profile of the stability parameter Q) is easily established, in the case of high disc mass we observe the development of an initial transient and subsequent settling down in a self-regulated state in some simulations, or a series or recurrent spiral episodes, with low azimuthal wavenumber m, in others. Accretion in this last case can therefore be a highly variable process. On the other hand, we find that the secular evolution of the disc is relatively slow. In fact, the time average of the stress induced by self-gravity results in accretion time-scales much longer than the dynamical time-scale, in contrast with previous isothermal simulations of massive accretion discs. We have also compared the resulting stress tensor with the expectations based on a local theory of transport, finding no significant evidence for global wave energy transport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1489-1500
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2005


  • accretion
  • accretion discs
  • gravitation
  • instabilities
  • stars: formation
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: spiral


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