A new 2D stochastic methodology for simulating variable accretion discs: propagating fluctuations and epicyclic motion

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Accretion occurs across a large range of scales and physical regimes. Despite this diversity in the physics, the observed properties show remarkably similarity. The theory of propagating fluctuations, in which broad-band variability within an accretion disc travel inwards and combine, has long been used to explain these phenomena. Recent numerical work has expanded on the extensive analytical literature but has been restricted to using the 1D diffusion equation for modelling the disc behaviour. In this work we present a novel numerical approach for 2D (vertically integrated), stochastically driven {\alpha}-disc simulations, generalising existing 1D models. We find that the theory of propagating fluctuations translates well to 2D. However, the presence of epicyclic motion in 2D (which cannot be captured within the diffusion equation) is shown to have an important impact on local disc dynamics. Additionally, there are suggestions that for sufficiently thin discs the log-normality of the light-curves changes. As in previous work, we find that the break frequency in the luminosity power spectrum is strongly dependent on the driving timescale of the stochastic perturbations within the disc, providing a possible observational signature for probing the magnetorotational instability (MRI) dynamo. We also find that thinner discs are significantly less variable than thicker ones, providing a compelling explanation for the greater variability seen in the hard state vs the soft state of X-ray binaries. Finally, we consider the wide-ranging applications of our numerical model for use in other simulations.

astro-ph.HE, astro-ph.HE
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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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Oxford University Press (OUP)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/S000623/1)
STFC (ST/T505985/1)
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) ERC (834203)
EPSRC (EP/T022159/1)