Accretion bursts in high-mass protostars: a new testbed for models of episodic accretion

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Vardan G. Elbakyan, Sergei Nayakshin, Eduard I. Vorobyov, Alessio Caratti o Garatti, Jochen Eislöffel

It is well known that low mass young stellar objects (LMYSOs) gain a significant portion of their final mass through episodes of very rapid accretion, with mass accretion rates up to M˙∗∼10−4M⊙~yr−1. Recent observations of high mass young stellar objects (HMYSO) with masses M∗≳10M⊙ uncovered outbursts with accretion rates exceeding M˙∗∼10−3M⊙~yr−1. Here we examine which scenarios proposed in the literature so far to explain accretion bursts of LMYSOs can apply to the episodic accretion in HMYSOs. We utilise a 1D time dependent models of protoplanetary discs around HMYSOs to study burst properties. We find that discs around HMYSOs are much hotter than those around their low mass cousins. As a result, much more extended regions of the disc are prone to the thermal hydrogen ionisation and MRI activation instabilities. The former in particular is found to be ubiquitous in a very wide range of accretion rates and disc viscosity parameters. The outbursts triggered by these instabilities, however, always have too low M˙∗, and are one to several orders of magnitude too long compared to those observed from HMYSOs so far. On the other hand, bursts generated by tidal disruptions of gaseous giant planets formed by the gravitational instability of the protoplanetary discs yield properties commensurate with observations, provided that the clumps are in the post-collapse configuration with planet radius Rp≳10 Jupiter radii. Furthermore, if observed bursts are caused by disc ionisation instabilities then they should be periodic phenomena with the duration of the quiescent phase comparable to that of the bursts. This may yield potentially observable burst periodicity signatures in the jets, the outer disc, or the surrounding diffuse material of massive HMYSOs. (abridged)

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