Surface layer accretion in transitional and conventional disks: from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to planets.
PEREZ-BECKER D. and CHIANG E.
Abstract (from CDS):
"Transitional" T Tauri disks have optically thin holes with radii ≳ 10 AU, yet accrete up to the median T Tauri rate. Multiple planets inside the hole can torque the gas to high radial speeds over large distances, reducing the local surface density while maintaining accretion. Thus multi-planet systems, together with reductions in disk opacity due to grain growth, can explain how holes can be simultaneously transparent and accreting. There remains the problem of how outer disk gas diffuses into the hole. Here it has been proposed that the magnetorotational instability (MRI) erodes disk surface layers ionized by stellar X-rays. In contrast to previous work, we find that the extent to which surface layers are MRI-active is limited not by ohmic dissipation but by ambipolar diffusion, the latter measured by Am: the number of times a neutral hydrogen molecule collides with ions in a dynamical time. Simulations by Hawley & Stone showed that Am ∼ 100 is necessary for ions to drive MRI turbulence in neutral gas. We calculate that in X-ray-irradiated surface layers, Am typically varies from ∼10–3 to 1, depending on the abundance of charge-adsorbing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, whose properties we infer from Spitzer observations. We conclude that ionization of H2 by X-rays and cosmic rays can sustain, at most, only weak MRI turbulence in surface layers 1-10 g/cm2 thick, and that accretion rates in such layers are too small compared to observed accretion rates for the majority of disks.