Accretion discs are common in binary systems, and they are often found to be misaligned with respect to the binary orbit. The gravitational torque from a companion induces nodal precession in misaligned disc orbits.We calculate whether this precession is strong enough to overcome the internal disc torques communicating angular momentum. For typical parameters precession wins: the disc breaks into distinct planes that precess effectively independently. We run hydrodynamical simulations to check these results, and confirm that disc breaking is widespread and generally enhances accretion on to the central object. This applies in many cases of astrophysical accretion, e.g. supermassive black hole binaries and X-ray binaries.
- accretion, accretion discs
- black hole physics