Gravitational instabilities in a protosolar-like disc - I. Dynamics and chemistry

M. G. Evans, John David Ilee, A. C. Boley, P. Caselli, R. H. Durisen, T. W. Hartquist, J. M. C. Rawlings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


To date, most simulations of the chemistry in protoplanetary discs have used 1 + 1D or 2D axisymmetric α-disc models to determine chemical compositions within young systems. This assumption is inappropriate for non-axisymmetric, gravitationally unstable discs, which may be a significant stage in early protoplanetary disc evolution. Using 3D radiative hydrodynamics, we have modelled the physical and chemical evolution of a 0.17 M⊙ self-gravitating disc over a period of 2000 yr. The 0.8 M⊙ central protostar is likely to evolve into a solar-like star, and hence this Class 0 or early Class I young stellar object may be analogous to our early Solar system. Shocks driven by gravitational instabilities enhance the desorption rates, which dominate the changes in gas-phase fractional abundances for most species. We find that at the end of the simulation, a number of species distinctly trace the spiral structure of our relatively low-mass disc, particularly CN. We compare our simulation to that of a more massive disc, and conclude that mass differences between gravitationally unstable discs may not have a strong impact on the chemical composition. We find that over the duration of our simulation, successive shock heating has a permanent effect on the abundances of HNO, CN and NH3, which may have significant implications for both simulations and observations. We also find that HCO+ may be a useful tracer of disc mass. We conclude that gravitational instabilities induced in lower mass discs can significantly, and permanently, affect the chemical evolution, and that observations with high-resolution instruments such as Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) offer a promising means of characterizing gravitational instabilities in protosolar discs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1147-1163
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Early online date24 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2015


  • Astrochemistry
  • Protoplanetary discs
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Stars: pre-main-sequence


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