On the diffusive propagation of warps in thin accretion discs

Giuseppe Lodato, Daniel James Price

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Abstract

In this paper, we revisit the issue of the propagation of warps in thin and viscous accretion discs. In this regime, warps are known to propagate diffusively, with a diffusion coefficient approximately inversely proportional to the disc viscosity. Previous numerical investigations of this problem did not find a good agreement between the numerical results and the predictions of the analytic theories of warp propagation, both in the linear and in the non-linear case. Here, we take advantage of a new, low-memory and highly efficient smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) code to run a large set of very high-resolution simulations (up to 20 million SPH particles) of warp propagation, implementing an isotropic disc viscosity in different ways, to investigate the origin of the discrepancy between the theory and the numerical results. We identify the cause of the discrepancy in an incorrect calibration of disc viscosity in previous investigations. Our new and improved analysis now shows a remarkable agreement with the analytic theory both in the linear and in the non-linear regime, in terms of warp diffusion coefficient and precession rate. It is worth noting that the resulting diffusion coefficient is inversely proportional to the disc viscosity only for small amplitude warps and small values of the disc alpha coefficient (alpha less than or similar to 0.1). For non-linear warps, the diffusion coefficient is a function of both radius and time, and is significantly smaller than the standard value. Warped accretion discs are present in many contexts, from protostellar discs to accretion discs around supermassive black holes. In all such cases, the exact value of the warp diffusion coefficient may strongly affect the evolution of the system and therefore its careful evaluation is critical in order to correctly estimate the system dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1212 - 1226
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume405
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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