Numerical experiments on the stability of preplanetary disks

  • Cassen P
  • Smith B
  • Miller R
 et al. 
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Gravitational stability of gaseous protostellar disks is relevant to theories of planetary formation. Stable gas disks favor formation of planetesimals by the accumulation of solid material; unstable disks allow the possibility of direct condensation of gaseous protoplanets. We present the results of numerical experiments designed to test the stability of thin disks against large-scale, self-gravitational disruption. The disks are represented by a distribution of about 6 × 104point masses on a two-dimensional (r, φ) grid. The motions of the particles in the self-consistent gravity field are calculated, and the evolving density distributions are examined for instabilities. Two parameters that have major influences on stability are varied: the initial temperature of the disk (represented by an imposed velocity dispersion), and the mass of the protostar relative to that of the disk. It is found that a disk as massive as 1M⊙, surrounding a 1M⊙protostar, can be stable against long-wavelength gravitational disruption if its temperature is about 300°K or greater. Stability of a cooler disk requires that it be less massive, but even at 100°K a stable disk can have an appreciable fraction (∼ 1 3) of a solar mass. © 1981.

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  • P. M. Cassen

  • B. F. Smith

  • R. H. Miller

  • R. T. Reynolds

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