Stellar irradiated discs and implications on migration of embedded planets: I. Equilibrium discs

B. Bitsch, A. Crida, A. Morbidelli, W. Kley, I. Dobbs-Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context. The strength and direction of migration of embedded low mass planets depends on the disc's thermodynamic state. It has been shown that, in discs where the viscous heating is balanced by radiative transport, the migration can be directed outwards, a process which extends the lifetime of growing planetary embryos. Aims. We investigate the influence of opacity and stellar irradiation on the disc thermodynamics. We focus on equilibrium discs, which have no net mass flux. Utilizing the resulting disc structure, we determine the regions of outward migration in the disc. Methods. We performed two-dimensional numerical simulations of equilibrium discs with viscous heating, radiative cooling, and stellar irradiation. We used the explicit/implicit hydrodynamical code NIRVANA that includes a full tensor viscosity and stellar irradiation, as well as a two temperature solver that includes radiation transport in the flux-limited diffusion approximation. The migration of embedded planets was studied by using torque formulae. Results. In the constant opacity case, our code reproduces the analytical results corresponding to a black-body disc: the stellar irradiation dominates in the outer regions-leading to flaring (H/r â̂ r2/7)-while the viscous heating dominates close to the star. In particular, we find that the inner edge of the disc should not be significantly puffed-up by the stellar irradiation. If the opacity depends on the local density and temperature, the structure of the disc is different, and several bumps in the aspect ratio H/r appear, due to transitions between different opacity regimes. The bumps in the disc structure are very important, as they can shield the outer disc from stellar irradiation. Conclusions. Stellar irradiation is an important factor for determining the disc structure and has dramatic consequences for the migration of embedded planets. Compared to discs with only viscous heating and radiative cooling, a stellar irradiated disc features a much smaller region of outward migration for a range of planetary masses. This suggests that the region where the formation of giant planet cores takes place is smaller, which in turn might lead to a shorter growth phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA124
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 2013


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Planet-disk interactions
  • Planets and satellites: formation
  • Radiative transfer
  • Radio continuum: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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