Evolution of linear warps in accretion discs and applications to protoplanetary discs in binaries

Academic Article


  • Warped accretion discs are expected in many protostellar binary systems. In this paper, we study the long-term evolution of disc warp and precession for discs with dimensionless thickness $H/r$ larger than their viscosity parameter $\alpha$, such that bending waves can propagate and dominate the warp evolution. For small warps, these discs undergo approximately rigid-body precession. We derive analytical expressions for the warp/twist profiles of the disc and the alignment timescale for a variety of models. Applying our results to circumbinary discs, we find that these discs align with the orbital plane of the binary on a timescale comparable to the global precession time of the disc, and typically much smaller than its viscous timescale. We discuss the implications of our finding for the observations of misaligned circumbinary discs (such as KH 15D) and circumbinary planetary systems (such as Kepler-413); these observed misalignments provide useful constraints on the uncertain aspects of the disc warp theory. On the other hand, we find that circumstellar discs can maintain large misalignments with respect to the plane of the binary companion over their entire lifetime. We estimate that inclination angles larger than $\sim 20^\circ$ can be maintained for typical disc parameters. Overall, our results suggest that while highly misaligned circumstellar discs in binaries are expected to be common, such misalignments should be rare for circumbinary discs. These expectations are consistent with current observations of protoplanetary discs and exoplanets in binaries, and can be tested with future observations.
  • Authors

  • Foucart, Francois
  • Lai, Dong
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 1, 2014
  • Has Subject Area


  • accretion, accretion discs
  • binary: general
  • hydrodynamics
  • protoplanetary discs
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1731
  • End Page

  • 1744
  • Volume

  • 445
  • Issue

  • 2