Wednesday, July 3, 2013

1307.0012 (Yucong Zhu et al.)

Thermal Stability in Turbulently Mixed Accretion Discs    [PDF]

Yucong Zhu, Ramesh Narayan
The standard thin accretion disc model predicts that discs around stellar mass black holes become radiation pressure dominated and thermally unstable once their luminosity exceeds L>0.02 L_Edd. Observationally, discs in the high/soft state of X-ray binaries show little variability in the range 0.01 L_Edd < L < 0.5 L_Edd, implying that these discs in nature are in fact quite stable. In an attempt to reconcile this conflict, we investigate one-zone disc models including turbulent and convective modes of vertical energy transport. We find both mixing mechanisms to have a stabilizing effect, leading to an increase in the L threshold up to which the disc is thermally stable. In the case of stellar mass black hole systems, convection alone leads to only a minor increase in this threshold, up to ~5 per cent of Eddington. However turbulent mixing has a much greater effect -- the threshold rises up to ~20 per cent Eddington under reasonable assumptions. In optimistic models with superefficient turbulent mixing, we even find solutions that are completely thermally stable for all accretion rates. Similar results are obtained for supermassive black holes, except that all critical accretion rates are a factor ~10 lower in Eddington ratio.
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