The chemical history of molecules in circumstellar disks

Schematic view of the history of H2O gas and ice throughout the disk. The main oxygen reservoir at t(acc) is indicated for each zone; the histories are described in the text. The percentages indicate the fraction of the disk mass contained in each zone. Note the disproportionality of the R and z axes. The colours have no specific meaning other than to distinguish the different zones

Context: The chemical composition of a molecular cloud changes dramatically as it collapses to form a low-mass protostar and circumstellar disk. Two-dimensional (2D) chemodynamical models are required to properly study this process.
Aims: The goal of this work is to follow, for the first time, the chemical evolution in two dimensions all the way from a pre-stellar core into a circumstellar disk. Of special interest is the question whether the chemical composition of the disk is a result of chemical processing during the collapse phase, or whether it is determined by in situ processing after the disk has formed.
Methods: Our model combines a semi-analytical method to get 2D axisymmetric density and velocity structures with detailed radiative transfer calculations to get temperature profiles and UV fluxes. Material is followed in from the core to the disk and a full gas-phase chemistry network — including freeze-out onto and evaporation from cold dust grains — is evolved along these trajectories. The abundances thus obtained are compared to the results from a static disk model and to observations of comets.
Results: The chemistry during the collapse phase is dominated by a few key processes, such as the evaporation of CO or the photodissociation of H2O. At the end of the collapse phase, the disk can be divided into zones with different chemical histories. The disk is not in chemical equilibrium at the end of the collapse, so care must be taken when choosing the initial abundances for stand-alone disk chemistry models. Our model results imply that comets must be formed from material with different chemical histories: some of it is strongly processed, some of it remains pristine. Variations between individual comets are possible if they formed at different positions or different times in the solar nebula.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.1741

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