739 research outputs found

    The viscosity parameter alpha and the properties of accretion disc outbursts in close binaries

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    The physical mechanisms driving angular momentum transport in accretion discs are still unknown. Although it is generally accepted that, in hot discs, the turbulence triggered by the magneto-rotational instability is at the origin of the accretion process in Keplerian discs, it has been found that the values of the stress-to-pressure ratio (the alpha "viscosity" parameter) deduced from observations of outbursting discs are an order of magnitude higher than those obtained in numerical simulations. We test the conclusion about the observation-deduced value of alpha using a new set of data and comparing the results with model outbursts. We analyse a set of observations of dwarf-nova and AM CVn star outbursts and from the measured decay times determine the hot-disc viscosity parameter alpha_h. We determine if and how this method is model dependent. From the dwarf-nova disc instability model we determine an amplitude vs recurrence-time relation and compare it to the empirical Kukarkin-Parenago relation between the same, but observed, quantities. We found that all methods we tried, including the one based on the amplitude vs recurrence-time relation, imply alpha_h ~ 0.1 - 0.2 and exclude values an order of magnitude lower. The serious discrepancy between the observed and the MRI-calculated values of the accretion disc viscosity parameter alpha is therefore real since there can be no doubt about the validity of the values deduced from observations of disc outbursts.Comment: Astronomy and Astrophysics, in press. (In Fig. 3b the upper sequence of numbers and symbols is an artefact of the compilation on astro-ph) and should be ignored.

    Hydrodynamic simulations of irradiated secondaries in dwarf novae

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    We investigate numerically the surface flow on the secondary star during outbursts. We use a simple model for the irradiation and the geometry of the secondary star: the irradiation temperature is treated as a free parameter and the secondary is replaced by a spherical star with a space-dependent Coriolis force that mimics the effect of the Roche geometry. The Euler equations are solved in spherical coordinates with the TVD-MacCormack scheme. We show that the Coriolis force leads to the formation of a circulation flow from high latitude region to the close vicinity of the L1L_1 point. However no heat can be efficiently transported to the L1L_1 region due to the rapid radiative cooling of the hot material as it enters the equatorial belt shadowed from irradiation. Under the assumption of hydrostatic equilibrium, the Coriolis force could lead to a moderate increase of the mass transfer rate by pushing the gas in the vertical direction at the L1L_1 point, but only during the initial phases of the outburst (about 15 -- 20 orbital periods). We conclude that the Coriolis force does not prevent a flow from the heated regions of the secondary towards the L1L_1 region, at least during the initial phase of an outburst, but the resulting increase of the mass transfer rate is moderate, and it is unlikely to be able to account for the duration of long outbursts.Comment: 11 pages, 11 figures, accepted for publication in A&

    Models of AM CVn star outbursts

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    Outbursting AM CVn stars exhibit outbursts similar to those observed in different types of dwarf novae. Their light-curves combine the characteristic features of SU UMa, ER UMa, Z Cam, and WZ Sge-type systems but also show a variety of properties never observed in dwarf novae. The compactness of AM CVn orbits and their unusual chemical composition make these systems valuable testbeds for outburst models. We aim for a better understanding of the role of helium in the accretion disc instability mechanism, testing the model for dwarf novae outbursts in the case of AM CVn stars, and aim to explain the outburst light-curves of these ultra-compact binaries. We calculated the properties of the hydrogen-free AM CVn stars using our previously developed numerical code adapted to the different chemical composition of these systems and supplemented with formulae accounting for mass transfer rate variations, additional sources of the disc heating, and the primary's magnetic field. We discovered how helium-dominated discs react to the thermal-viscous instability and were able to reproduce various features of the outburst cycles in the light-curves of AM CVn stars. The AM CVn outbursts can be explained by the suitably adapted dwarf-nova disc instability model but, as in the case of its application to hydrogen-dominated cataclysmic variables, one has to resort to additional mechanisms to account for the observed superoutbursts, dips, cycling states, and standstills. We show that the enhanced mass-transfer rate, due presumably to variable irradiation of the secondary, must not only be taken into account but is a determining factor that shapes AM CVn star outbursts. The cause of the variable secondary's irradiation has yet to be understood; the best candidate is the precession of a tilted/warped disc.Comment: Astronomy and Astrophysics - in press; corrected (language) versio
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