On the role of disks in the formation of stellar systems: A numerical parameter study of rapid accretion

Kaitlin Kratter, Christopher D. Matzner, Mark R. Krumholz, Richard I. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

147 Scopus citations


We study rapidly accreting, gravitationally unstable disks with a series of idealized global, numerical experiments using the code ORION. Our numerical parameter study focuses on protostellar disks, showing that one can predict disk behavior and the multiplicity of the accreting star system as a function of two dimensionless parameters which compare the infall rate to the disk sound speed and orbital period. Although gravitational instabilities become strong, we find that fragmentation into binary or multiple systems occurs only when material falls in several times more rapidly than the canonical isothermal limit. The disk-to-star accretion rate is proportional to the infall rate and governed by gravitational torques generated by low-m spiral modes. We also confirm the existence of a maximum stable disk mass: disks that exceed ∼ 50% of the total system mass are subject to fragmentation and the subsequent formation of binary companions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1585-1597
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes



  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Binaries: general
  • Stars: formation
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

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