Rapid radiative clearing of protoplanetary discs
Haworth et al
The lack of observed transition discs with inner gas holes of radii greater than ~50AU implies that protoplanetary discs dispersed from the inside out must remove gas from the outer regions rapidly. We investigate the role of photoevaporation in the final clearing of gas from low mass discs with inner holes. In particular, we study the so-called "thermal sweeping" mechanism which results in rapid clearing of the disc. Thermal sweeping was originally thought to arise when the radial and vertical pressure scale lengths at the X-ray heated inner edge of the disc match. We demonstrate that this criterion is not fundamental. Rather, thermal sweeping occurs when the pressure maximum at the inner edge of the dust heated disc falls below the maximum possible pressure of X-ray heated gas (which depends on the local X-ray flux). We derive new critical peak volume and surface density estimates for rapid radiative clearing which, in general, result in rapid dispersal happening less readily than in previous estimates. This less efficient clearing of discs by X-ray driven thermal sweeping leaves open the issue of what mechanism can clear gas from the outer disc sufficiently quickly to explain the non-detection of cold gas around weak line T Tauri stars.