Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy


Ralph E. Pudritz



Committee Member

James Wadsley, Christine Wilson


Protostellar discs are generally thought to drive molecular outflows and jets observed in star forming regions, but there has been some debate as to how they form. The details of the driving and collimation of outflows help determine how much mass is cleared out and how much energy is fed back into the surroundings. Recently it has been argued that the magnetic brake is so strong that early protostellar disks cannot form.

We have performed 3D ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of collapsing Bonnor–Ebert spheres, employing sink particles within an AMR grid and using a cooling function to model radiative cooling of the gas. This allows us to follow the formation and early evolution of the accretion disc (2−8)×104 years further into the Class 0 phase of its evolution. We form a rotationally dominated disc with a radius of 100 AU embedded inside a transient, unstable, flattened, rotating structure extending out to 2000 AU. The inner disc becomes unstable to a warping instability due to the magnetic structure of the outflow, warping 30 deg with respect to the rotation–axis by the end of the simulation. The disc is unstable to a Parker instability and sheds magnetic loops, degrading the orientation of the mean threading field. This reduces and locally reverses the magnetic braking torque of the large scale field back upon the disc. The reduction of magnetic braking allows a nearly Keplerian disc to form and may be the key way in which low mass stellar systems produce rotationally dominated discs. We discuss the relevance of our disc misalignment concerning the formation of mis–aligned hot Jupiters.

Protostellar outflows are implicated in clearing mass from collapsing cores, and limiting the final mass of newly formed stars. The details of the driving and collimation of outflows help determine how much mass is cleared out and how much energy is fed back into the surroundings. The simulations generate outflows which are precessing, kinked, contain internal shocks and extend to a scale of 0.1 pc end–to–end. Our disc–wind theory describes magneto–centrifugal driving throughout the outflow bubble. The bulk properties of the outflow agree well with observations. The outflow has two components, a larger low speed wind (vr < 1.5 km/s) dominated by a toroidal magnetic field Bφ, and an inner centrifugally driven jet dominated by Bp with speeds up to 20 km/s. The ratio of mass flux from the disk surface com- pared to accretion in the disk is measured to be Mout/Min ∼ 0.1 from the inner component, whereas in the outer component Mout/Min ∼ 1.0. The jet is misaligned and precesses as the disc warps by 30 deg with respect to the z–axis. We measure star formation efficiencies of εcore = 0.63 (and growing), higher than theoretical predictions of εcore = 0.29−0.39 and observations εcore = 0.33.

These new results reported in this thesis, show that disks can form in strongly magnetized media, in agreement with the observations - and that outflows are not as efficient in clearing away collapsing gas as has been assumed in various theoretical models. Both of these results have important implications for disk formation, and the origin of the IMF, as described in this work.

McMaster University Library

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