Local three-dimensional simulations of magnetorotational instability in radiation-dominated accretion disks

N. J. Turner, James McLellan Stone, J. H. Krolik, T. Sano

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We examine the small-scale dynamics of black hole accretion disks in which radiation pressure exceeds gas pressure. Local patches of disk are modeled by numerically integrating the equations of radiation MHD in the flux-limited diffusion approximation. The shearing-box approximation is used, and the vertical component of gravity is neglected. Magnetorotational instability (MRI) leads to turbulence in which accretion stresses are due primarily to magnetic torques. When radiation is locked to gas over the length and timescales of fluctuations in the turbulence, the accretion stress, density contrast, and dissipation differ little from those in the corresponding calculations, with radiation replaced by extra gas pressure. However, when radiation diffuses each orbit a distance that is comparable to the rms vertical wavelength of the MRI, radiation pressure is less effective in resisting squeezing. Large density fluctuations occur, and radiation damping of compressive motions converts P dV work into photon energy. The accretion stress in calculations having a net vertical magnetic field is found to be independent of opacity over the range explored and approximately proportional to the square of the net field. In calculations with zero net magnetic flux, the accretion stress depends on the portion of the total pressure that is effective in resisting compression. The stress is lower when radiation diffuses rapidly with respect to the gas. We show that radiation-supported Shakura-Sunyaev disks accreting via internal magnetic stresses are likely to have radiation marginally coupled to turbulent gas motions in their interiors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-1006
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Aug 20 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Instabilities
  • MHD
  • Radiative transfer


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