Magnetorotational dynamo chimeras. The missing link to turbulent accretion disk dynamo models?
Foils et al
In Keplerian accretion disks, turbulence and magnetic fields may be jointly excited through a subcritical dynamo process involving the magnetorotational instability (MRI). High-resolution simulations exhibit a tendency towards statistical self-organization of MRI dynamo turbulence into large-scale cyclic dynamics. Understanding the physical origin of these structures, and whether they can be sustained and transport angular momentum efficiently in astrophysical conditions, represents a significant theoretical challenge. The discovery of simple periodic nonlinear MRI dynamo solutions has recently proven useful in this respect, and has notably served to highlight the role of turbulent magnetic diffusion in the seeming decay of the dynamics at low magnetic Prandtl number Pm (magnetic diffusivity larger than viscosity), a common regime in accretion disks. The connection between these simple structures and the statistical organization reported in turbulent simulations remained elusive, though. Here, we report the numerical discovery in moderate aspect ratio Keplerian shearing boxes of new periodic, incompressible, three-dimensional nonlinear MRI dynamo solutions with a larger dynamical complexity reminiscent of such simulations. These "chimera" cycles are characterized by multiple MRI-unstable dynamical stages, but their basic physical principles of self-sustainment are nevertheless identical to those of simpler cycles found in azimuthally elongated boxes. In particular, we find that they are not sustained at low Pm either due to subcritical turbulent magnetic diffusion. These solutions offer a new perspective into the transition from laminar to turbulent instability-driven dynamos, and may prove useful to devise improved statistical models of turbulent accretion disk dynamos.