Magnetic field transport in compact binaries
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Context. Dwarf novae (DNe) and low mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) show eruptions that are thought to be due to a thermal-viscous instability in their accretion disk. These eruptions provide constraints on angular momentum transport mechanisms. Aims. We explore the idea that angular momentum transport could be controlled by the dynamical evolution of the large-scale magnetic field. We study the impact of different prescriptions for the magnetic field evolution on the dynamics of the disk. This is a
... the disk. This is a first step in confronting the theory of magnetic field transport with observations. Methods. We developed a version of the disk instability model that evolves the density, the temperature, and the large-scale vertical magnetic flux simultaneously. We took into account the accretion driven by turbulence or by a magnetized outflow with prescriptions taken, respectively, from shearing box simulations or self-similar solutions of magnetized outflows. To evolve the magnetic flux, we used a toy model with physically motivated prescriptions that depend mainly on the local magnetization β, where β is the ratio of thermal pressure to magnetic pressure. Results. We find that allowing magnetic flux to be advected inwards provides the best agreement with DNe light curves. This leads to a hybrid configuration with an inner magnetized disk, driven by angular momentum losses to an MHD outflow, sharply transiting to an outer weakly-magnetized turbulent disk where the eruptions are triggered. The dynamical impact is equivalent to truncating a viscous disk so that it does not extend down to the compact object, with the truncation radius dependent on the magnetic flux and evolving asṀ −2/3 . Conclusions. Models of DNe and LMXB light curves typically require the outer, viscous disk to be truncated in order to match the observations. There is no generic explanation for this truncation. We propose that it is a natural outcome of the presence of large-scale magnetic fields in both DNe and LMXBs, with the magnetic flux accumulating towards the center to produce a magnetized disk with a fast accretion timescale.