Modeling gravitational instabilities in
self-gravitating protoplanetary disks with
adaptive mesh refinement techniques

Tim Lichtenberg & Dominik R. G. Schleicher
A&A 579, A32 (2015)


The astonishing diversity in the observed planetary population requires theoretical efforts and advances in planet formation theories. Numerical approaches provide a method to tackle the weaknesses of current planet formation models and are an important tool to close gaps in poorly constrained areas. We present a global disk setup to model the first stages of giant planet formation via gravitational instabilities (GI) in 3D with the block-structured adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) hydrodynamics code ENZO.

With this setup, we explore the impact of AMR techniques on the fragmentation and clumping due to large-scale instabilities using different AMR configurations. Additionally, we seek to derive general resolution criteria for global simulations of self-gravitating disks of variable extent. We run a grid of simulations with varying AMR settings, including runs with a static grid for comparison, and study the effects of varying the disk radius. Adopting a marginally stable disk profile (Q_init=1), we validate the numerical robustness of our model for different spatial extensions, from compact to larger, extended disks (R_disk = 10, 100 and 300 AU, M_disk ~ 0.05 M_Sun, M_star = 0.646 M_Sun).

By combining our findings from the resolution and parameter studies we find a lower limit of the resolution to be able to resolve GI induced fragmentation features and distinct, turbulence inducing clumps. Irrespective of the physical extension of the disk, topologically disconnected clump features are only resolved if the fragmentation-active zone of the disk is resolved with at least 100 cells, which holds as a minimum requirement for all global disk setups. Our simulations illustrate the capabilities of AMR-based modeling techniques for planet formation simulations and underline the importance of balanced refinement settings to reproduce fragmenting structures.