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Parasitic instabilities in magnetized, differentially rotating disks
Goodman, Jeremy; Xu, Guohong
AA(Princeton Univ. Observatory, Princeton, NJ, US), AB(Princeton Univ. Observatory, Princeton, NJ, US)
Astrophysical Journal, Part 1 (ISSN 0004-637X), vol. 432, no. 1, p. 213-223 (ApJ Homepage)
Publication Date:
NASA/STI Keywords:
Accretion Disks, Astronomical Models, Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability, Magnetohydrodynamic Stability, Mathematical Models, Rotating Fluids, Viscosity, Eigenvectors, Fluid Dynamics, Gas Pressure, Magnetic Fields, Nonlinear Equations
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Velikhov, Chandrasekhar, Balbus & Hawley have discovered a MHD instability of differentially rotating fluids that may explain the effective viscosity of accretion disks. If the unperturbed magnetic energy density is much less than the gas pressure, this `magnetorotational' instability (MRI) arises on small scales and is approximately incompressible. If the unperturbed field is suffiently, strong, the MRI is suppressed. We therefore ask whether the MRI mechanism can amplify even very weak initial fields until they reach equipartition with the gas pressure. We show that in the total incompressible limit, the MRI modes are exact solutions of the nonlinear fluid equations, even if the perturbed magnetic field is much larger than the unperturbed field. Also, we present a new exact solution in the opposite limit that the magnetic pressure is much larger than that of the gas. On the other hand, we show that the incompressible MRI modes are themselves subject to parasitic instabilities with instantaneous growth rates proportional to the MRI amplitude. Some of the parasitic instabilities are of the Kelvin-Helmholtz type, while others are less familiar. The eigenfunctions of the latter group suggest that they may promote rapid reconnection of the MRI field. Thus, parasitic modes may stop MRI growth at subequipartition amplitudes if it developes from a sufficiently weak initital field.

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