A global 3D simulation of magnetospheric accretion - I. Magnetically disrupted discs and surface accretion

Zhaohuan Zhu, James M. Stone, Nuria Calvet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We present a 3D ideal MHD simulation of magnetospheric accretion on to a non-rotating star. The accretion process unfolds with intricate 3D structures driven by various mechanisms. First, the disc develops filaments at the magnetospheric truncation radius (RT) due to magnetic interchange instability. These filaments penetrate deep into the magnetosphere, form multiple accretion columns, and eventually impact the star at ∼30o from the poles at nearly the free-fall speed. Over 50 per cent (90 per cent) of accretion occurs on just 5 per cent (20 per cent) of the stellar surface. Secondly, the disc region outside RT develops large-scale magnetically dominated bubbles, again due to magnetic interchange instability. These bubbles orbit at a sub-Keplerian speed, persisting for a few orbits while leading to asymmetric mass ejection. The disc outflow is overall weak because of mostly closed field lines. Thirdly, magnetically supported surface accretion regions appear above the disc, resembling a magnetized disc threaded by net vertical fields, a departure from traditional magnetospheric accretion models. Stellar fields are efficiently transported into the disc region due to above instabilities, contrasting with the 'X-wind' model. The accretion rate on to the star remains relatively steady with a 23 per cent standard deviation. The periodogram reveals variability occurring at around 0.2 times the Keplerian frequency at RT, linked to the large-scale magnetic bubbles. The ratio of the spin-up torque to is around 0.8. Finally, after scaling the simulation, we investigate planet migration in the inner protoplanetary disc. The disc driven migration is slow in the MHD turbulent disc beyond RT, while aerodynamic drag plays a significant role in migration within RT,.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2883-2911
Number of pages29
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • accretion, accretion discs
  • dynamo
  • instabilities
  • MHD
  • protoplanetary discs
  • X-rays: binaries


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