On the effects of optically thick gas (disks) around massive stars

Rolf Kuiper, Harold W. Yorke

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grive Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA

Numerical simulations have shown that the often cited radiation pressure barrier to accretion onto massive stars can be circumvented, when the radiation field is highly anisotropic in the presence of a circumstellar accretion disk with high optical depth. Here, these studies of the so-called flashlight effect are expanded by including the opacity of the innermost dust-free but potentially optically thick gas regions around forming massive stars. In addition to frequency-dependent opacities for the dust grains, we use temperature- and density-dependent Planck- and Rosseland mean opacities for the gas. The simulations show that the innermost dust-free parts of the accretion disks are optically thick to the stellar radiation over a substantial fraction of the solid angle above and below the disk's midplane. The temperature in the shielded disk region decreases faster with radius than in a comparison simulation with a lower constant gas opacity, and the dust sublimation front is shifted to smaller radii. The shielding by the dust-free gas in the inner disk thus contributes to an enhanced flashlight effect, which ultimately results in a smaller opening angle of the radiation pressure driven outflow and in a much longer timescale of sustained feeding of the circumstellar disk by the molecular cloud core. We conclude that it is necessary to properly account for the opacity of the inner dust-free disk regions around forming massive stars in order to correctly assess the effectiveness of the flashlight effect, the opening angle of radiation pressure driven outflows, and the lifetime and morphological evolution of the accretion disk.

Reference: ApJ
Status: Manuscript has been accepted

Weblink: http://arxiv.org/abs/1211.6432


Email: Rolf.Kuiper@jpl.nasa.gov