What is wrong with steady accretion discs?
C. J. Nixon, J. E. Pringle
Astronomy and Astrophysics
In a standard, steady, thin accretion disc, the radial distribution of the dissipation of the accretion energy is determined simply by energy considerations. Here we draw attention to the fact that while the (quasi-)steady discs in dwarf novae in outburst are in agreement with the expected emission distribution, the steady discs in the nova-like variables are not. We note that essentially the only difference between these two sets of discs is the time for which they have been in the high
... ty, high accretion rate state. In such discs, the major process by which angular momentum is transported outwards is MHD turbulence. We speculate that such turbulence gives rise to corona-like structures (here called magnetically controlled zones, or MCZs) which are also able to provide non-negligible angular momentum transport, the magnitude of which depends on the spatial scale L of the magnetic field structures in such zones. For short-lived, high accretion rate discs (such as those in dwarf novae) we expect L ∼ H and the MCZ to have little effect. But, with time (such as in the nova-like variables) an inverse cascade in the MHD turbulence enables L, and the net effect of the MCZ, to grow. We present a simple toy model which demonstrates that such ideas can provide an explanation for the difference between the dwarf novae and the nova-like variable discs.