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The role of angular momentum transport in establishing the accretion rate–protostellar mass correlation

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New Astronomy



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We model the mass accretion rate M˙ to stellar mass M* correlation that has been inferred from observations of intermediate to upper mass T Tauri stars—that is M˙∝M*1.3±0.3. We explain this correlation within the framework of quiescent disk evolution, in which accretion is driven largely by gravitational torques acting in the bulk of the mass and volume of the disk. Stresses within the disk arise from the action of gravitationally driven torques parameterized in our 1D model in terms of Toomre's Q criterion. We do not model the hot inner sub-AU scale region of the disk that is likely stable according to this criterion, and appeal to other mechanisms to remove or redistribute angular momentum and allow accretion onto the star. Our model has the advantage of agreeing with large-scale angle-averaged values from more complex nonaxisymmetric calculations. The model disk transitions from an early phase (dominated by initial conditions inherited from the burst mode of accretion) into a later self-similar mode characterized by a steeper temporal decline in M˙. The models effectively reproduce the spread in mass accretion rates that have been observed for protostellar objects of 0.2 M⊙ ≤ M* ≤ 3.0 M⊙, such as those found in the ρ Ophiuchus and Taurus star forming regions. We then compare realistically sampled populations of young stellar objects produced by our model to their observational counterparts. We find these populations to be statistically coincident, which we argue is evidence for the role of gravitational torques in the late time evolution of quiescent protostellar disks.

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