Modeling collapse and accretion in turbulent gas clouds: implementation and comparison of sink particles in AMR and SPH

Christoph Federrath, Robi Banerjee, Paul Clark, Ralf Klessen

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Star formation is such a complex process that accurate numerical tools are needed to quantitatively examine the mass distribution and accretion of fragments in collapsing, turbulent, magnetized gas clouds. To enable a numerical treatment of this regime, we implemented sink particles in the adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) hydrodynamics code FLASH. Sink particles are created in regions of local gravitational collapse, and their trajectories and accretion can be followed over many dynamical times. We perform a series of tests including the time integration of circular and elliptical orbits, the collapse of a Bonnor-Ebert sphere, and a rotating, fragmenting cloud core. We compare the collapse of a highly unstable singular isothermal sphere to the theory by Shu and show that the sink particle accretion rate is in excellent agreement with the theoretical prediction. To model eccentric orbits and close encounters of sink particles accurately, we show that a very small time step is often required, for which we implemented subcycling of the N-body system. We emphasize that a sole density threshold for sink particle creation is insufficient in supersonic flows, if the density threshold is below the opacity limit. In that case, the density can exceed the threshold in strong shocks that do not necessarily lead to local collapse. Additional checks for bound state, gravitational potential minimum, Jeans instability, and converging flows are absolutely necessary for meaningful creation of sink particles. We apply our new sink particle module for FLASH to the formation of a stellar cluster, and compare to a smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code with sink particles. Our comparison shows encouraging agreement of gas properties, indicated by column density distributions and radial profiles, and of sink particle formation times and positions. We find excellent agreement in the number of sink particles formed, and in their accretion and mass distributions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269 - 290
Number of pages22
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

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