Vertical structure of gas pressure-dominated accretion disks with local dissipation of turbulence and radiative transport

Shigenobu Hirose, Julian H. Krolik, James McLellan Stone

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We calculate the vertical structure of a local patch of an accretion disk in which heating by dissipation of MRI-driven MHD turbulence is balanced by radiative cooling. Heating, radiative transport, and cooling are computed self-consistently with the structure by solving the equations of radiation MHD in the shearing-box approximation. Using a fully three-dimensional and energy-conserving code, we compute the structure of this disk segment over a span of more than five cooling times. After a brief relaxation period, a statistically steady state develops. Measuring height above the midplane in units of the scale height predicted by a Shakura-Sunyaev model, we find that magnetic pressure causes the disk atmosphere to stretch upward, with the photosphere rising to ≃7H, in contrast to the ≃3H predicted by conventional analytic models. This more extended structure, as well as fluctuations in the height of the photosphere, may lead to departures from Planckian form in the emergent spectra. Dissipation is distributed across the region within ≃3H of the midplane but is very weak at greater altitudes. As a result, the temperature deep in the disk interior is less than that expected when all heat is generated in the midplane. With only occasional exceptions, the gas temperature stays very close to the radiation temperature, even above the photosphere. Because fluctuations in the dissipation are particularly strong away from the midplane, the emergent radiation flux can track dissipation fluctuations with a lag that is only 0.1-0.2 times the mean cooling time of the disk. Long-timescale asymmetries in the dissipation distribution can also cause significant asymmetry in the flux emerging from the top and bottom surfaces of the disk. Radiative diffusion dominates Poynting flux in the vertical energy flow throughout the disk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)901-917
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Accretion
  • Accretion disks


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