Galactic and Accretion Disk Dynamos

Research paper by Ethan T. Vishniac

Indexed on: 11 Dec '98Published on: 11 Dec '98Published in: Astrophysics


Dynamos in astrophysical disks are usually explained in terms of the standard alpha-omega mean field dynamo model where the local helicity generates a radial field component from an azimuthal field. The subsequent shearing of the radial field gives rise to exponentially growing dynamo modes. There are several problems with this model. The exponentiation time for the galactic dynamo is hard to calculate, but is probably uncomfortably long. Moreover, numerical simulations of magnetic fields in shearing flows indicate that the presence of a dynamo does not depend on a non-zero average helicity. However, these difficulties can be overcome by including a fluctuating helicity driven by hydrodynamic or magnetic instabilities. Unlike traditional disk dynamo models, this `incoherent' dynamo does not depend on the presence of systematic fluid helicity or any kind of vertical symmetry breaking. It will depend on geometry, in the sense that the dynamo growth rate becomes smaller for very thin disks, in agreement with constraints taken from the study of X-ray novae. In this picture the galactic dynamo will operate efficiently, but the resulting field will have a radial coherence length which is a fraction of the galactic radius.