Astronomy 250:  Special Topics in Astrophysics

Spring 2002

Accretion Disks

Instructors:   Eugene Chiang and Eliot Quataert (Astronomy Department, UC Berkeley)

Time & Place:   Fridays 10:00 - 11:30 in 544 Campbell Hall


Accretion of matter onto a central object is one of the most widespread and important phenomena in astrophysics.  The formation of stars and of planets, and the production of prodigious amounts of energy from compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes, hinge on the manner in which matter inspirals within accretion disks.

This course will cover the theory of accretion disks, with emphasis on the outstanding problem of angular momentum transport.  How does matter in the disk lose nearly all of its angular momentum to reach the central object?  Throughout the course we will make contact between theoretical models and observations of accreting systems.


The first month of the course will be devoted to introductory lectures on the theory and observations of accretion disks.  The remainder of the course will focus on proposals for the resolution of the angular momentum problem, with each week centered on the reading of a journal article.  The instructors will deliver a ~1/2 hour lecture providing context for the week's reading.  Over the next ~1 hour, a student will present the contents of the article and lead a discussion.


1/25-2/15 Frank, King, & Raine  Book published by Springer-Verlag  Accretion Disks in Astrophysics  Ch. 1, 2, 3.6, 4.6, 4.7, 5.1-5.6  handout Quataert/Chiang
Balbus & Hawley 1998, Rev. Mod. Physics, v.70  Instability, Turbulence, and Enhanced Transport in Accretion Disks  1-13  BH
Vector Calculus in Cylindrical Co-ordinates  Vectors
2/22 Goldreich & Tremaine  1978, Icarus, v.34  The Velocity Dispersion of Saturn's Rings  227-229, 235-236  GT 1 Andrew Youdin
Goldreich & Tremaine  1979, Nature, v.277  Towards a Theory for the Uranian Rings  97-98, up to and including equation (10)  GT 2
Lin & Papaloizou  1979, MNRAS, v.186  Tidal Torques on Accretion Disks in Binary Systems with Extreme Mass Ratios  799-800, up to and including equation (6)  LP Supplemental Reading
3/08 Stone & Balbus  1996, ApJ, v.464  Angular Momentum Transport in Accretion Disks via Convection  364-372  SB Jon Swift
3/15 Balbus, Hawley, & Stone  1996, ApJ, v.467  Nonlinear Stability, Hydrodynamical Turbulence, and Transport in Disks  76-86  BHS Joe Barranco
4/05 Hawley, Gammie, & Balbus  1995, ApJ, v.440  Local Three-dimensional Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations of Accretion Disks  Everything, but focus on sections 3 and 4  HGB Anatoly Spitkovsky
4/19 Fleming,
Stone, &
2000, ApJ, 530 The Effect of Resistivity on the Nonlinear Stage of the MRI in Accretion Disks 464-477 FHS
4/26 Gammie 2001, ApJ, 553 Nonlinear Outcome of Gravitational Instability in
Cooling, Gaseous Disks
174-183 CG
5/3 Goodman 
& Rafikov
2001, ApJ, 552  Planetary Torques as the Viscosity of Protoplanetary Disks Avoid sections 
        4 & 5