Disk instabilities and cooling fronts Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Accretion disk outbursts, and their subsequent decline, offer a unique opportunity to constrain the physics of angular momentum transport in hot accretion disks. Recent work has centered on the claim by Cannizzo et al. that the exponential decay of luminosity following an outburst in black hole accretion disk systems is only consistent with a particular form for the dimensionless viscosity, $\alpha=35(c_s/r\Omega)^{3/2}$. This result can be understood in terms of a simple model of the evolution of cooling fronts in accretion disks. In particular, the cooling front speed during decline is $\sim \alpha_F c_{s,F}(c_{s,F}/r\Omega)^{n}$, where $F$ denotes the position of the cooling front, and the exact value of $n$ depends on the hot state opacity, (although generally $n\approx 1/2$). Setting this speed proportional to $r$ constrains the functional form of $\alpha$ in the hot phase of the disk, which sets it apart from previous arguments based on the relative durations of outburst and quiescence. However, it remains uncertain how well we know the exponent $n$. In addition, more work is needed to clarify the role of irradiation in these systems and its effect on the cooling front evolution.

publication date

  • 1998