The structure of young embedded protostellar discs
MacFarlane et al
Young protostellar discs provide the initial conditions for planet formation. The properties of these discs may be different from those of late-phase (T Tauri) discs due to continuing infall from the envelope and protostellar variability resulting from irregular gas accretion. We use a set of hydrodynamic simulations to determine the structure of discs forming in collapsing molecular clouds. We examine how radiative feedback from the host protostar affects the disc properties by examining three regimes: without radiative feedback, with continuous radiative feedback and with episodic feedback, similar to FU Ori-type outbursts. We find that the radial surface density and temperature profiles vary significantly as the disc accretes gas from the infalling envelope. These profiles are sensitive to the presence of spiral structure, induced by gravitational instabilities, and the radiative feedback provided by the protostar, especially in the case when the feedback is episodic. We also investigate whether mass estimates from position–velocity (PV) diagrams are accurate for early-phase discs. We find that the protostellar system mass (i.e. the mass of the protostar and its disc) is underestimated by up to 20 per cent, due to the impact of an enhanced radial pressure gradient on the gas. The mass of early-phase discs is a significant fraction of the mass of the protostar, so PV diagrams cannot accurately provide the mass of the protostar alone. The enhanced radial pressure gradient expected in young discs may lead to an increased rate of dust depletion due to gas drag, and therefore to a reduced dust-to-gas ratio.