AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 117 Star Formation, Embedded Young Stars and Their Disks
Oral, Wednesday, January 12, 2005, 10:00-11:30am, Golden Ballroom

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[117.06] Three-Dimensional Vortices in Stratified Protoplanetary Disks

J.A. Barranco (KITP/UCSB), P.S. Marcus (U.C. Berkeley)

We present the results of high-resolution, three-dimensional (3D), hydrodynamic simulations of the dynamics and formation of coherent, long-lived vortices in stably-stratified protoplanetary disks. Tall, columnar vortices that extend vertically through many scale heights in the disk are unstable to small perturbations. Such vortices cannot maintain vertical alignment over more than a couple scale heights and are ripped apart by the Keplerian shear. Short, finite-height cylindrical vortices that extend only one scale height above and below the midplane are also unstable, but for a different reason: we have isolated an antisymmetric (with respect to the midplane) eigenmode that grows with an e-folding time of only a few orbital periods; the nonlinear evolution of this instability leads to the destruction of the vortex in the midplane. Serendipitously, we observed the formation of 3D vortices that were centered not in the midplane, but at one to three scale heights above and below. Breaking internal gravity waves (e.g. excited by an oscillating vortex in the midplane) create vorticity; anticyclonic regions of vorticity roll-up and coalesce into new vortices, whereas cyclonic regions are sheared into thin azimuthal bands or zones. Unlike the midplane-centered vortices that were placed ad hoc in the disk and turned out to be linearly unstable, the off-midplane vortices formed naturally out of perturbations in the disk, and are stable and robust for many hundreds of orbits.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 5
© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.