STRUCTURAL CHANGES OF THE SUBLIMATION WALL IN PROTOPLANETARY DISKS DUE TO VARYING ACCRETION ILLUMINATION: A MECHANISM FOR RAPID INFRARED VARIABILITY
Nagel et al
We study the changes in the sublimation wall structure due to variable illumination of a stellar hot spot on the dusty surroundings of a young star. The model includes the settling of large grains toward the disk midplane and the effect of the vertical density profile on the shaping of the sublimation wall. From a survey of objects in the young cluster IC 348, we extract three objects (LRLL 32, 40, and 63) that present typical variability in the [3.6] and [4.5] IRAC bands. We use the Spitzer photometry and ground-based 2–5 μm spectra for comparison with the models. Even though there is a correlation between accretion luminosity and dust emission based on the observations, we conclude from the modeling that the systems with lower mass accretion rates (LRLL 32 and 63) cannot be explained simply by a variable hot spot illuminating a sublimation wall. The observed variability amplitude for LRLL 40 (the system with the largest value of the mass accretion rate) can be obtained using the mechanism presented here. When considering a wide range of hot spot sizes and temperatures, the models can reproduce the infrared fluctuations seen in recent surveys, but only with accretion rate fluctuations that are orders of magnitude larger than is typically observed. These results highlight the relevance of accretion as a variability mechanism as well as its limitations in producing the full extent of the observed infrared variability.