Temperature structure of protoplanetary disks undergoing layered accretion

M. V. Lesniak, Steven Desch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We calculate the temperature structures of protoplanetary disks (PPDs) around T Tauri stars heated by both incident starlight and viscous dissipation. We present a new algorithm for calculating the temperatures in disks in hydrostatic and radiative equilibrium, based on Rybicki's method for iteratively calculating the vertical temperature structure within an annulus. At each iteration, the method solves for the temperature at all locations simultaneously, and converges rapidly even at high (≫104) optical depth. The method retains the full frequency dependence of the radiation field. We use this algorithm to study for the first time disks evolving via the magnetorotational instability. Because PPD midplanes are weakly ionized, this instability operates preferentially in their surface layers, and disks will undergo layered accretion. We find that the midplane temperatures T mid are strongly affected by the column density Σa of the active layers, even for fixed mass accretion rate . Models assuming uniform accretion predict midplane temperatures in the terrestrial planet forming region several × 102 K higher than our layered accretion models do. For and the column densities Σa < 10 g cm-2 associated with layered accretion, disk temperatures are indistinguishable from those of a passively heated disk. We find emergent spectra are insensitive to Σa, making it difficult to observationally identify disks undergoing layered versus uniform accretion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 20 2011


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • protoplanetary disks
  • radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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