Protostellar Disk Instabilities and the Formation of Substellar Companions
Recent numerical simulations of self-gravitating protostellar disks have suggested that gravitational instabilities can lead to the production of substellar companions. In these simulations, the disk is typically assumed to be locally isothermal; i.e., the initial, axisymmetric temperature in the disk remains everywhere unchanged. Such an idealized condition implies extremely efficient cooling for outwardly moving parcels of gas. While we have seen disk disruption in our own locally isothermal
... locally isothermal simulations of a small, massive protostellar disk, no longlived companions formed as a result of the instabilities. Instead, thermal and tidal effects and the complex interactions of the disk material prevented permanent condensations from forming, despite the vigorous growth of spiral instabilities. In order to compare our results more directly with those of other authors, we here present three-dimensional evolutions of an older, larger, but less massive protostellar disk. We show that potentially longlived condensations form only for the extreme of local isothermality, and then only when severe restrictions are placed on the natural tendency of the protostellar disk to expand in response to gravitational instabilities. A more realistic adiabatic evolution leads to vertical and radial expansion of the disk but no clump formation. We conclude that isothermal disk calculations cannot demonstrate companion formation by disk fragmentation but only suggest it at best. It will be necessary in future numerical work on this problem to treat the disk thermodynamics more realistically.