Editors: Pau Amaro-Seoane & Bernard Schutz
The last GW Note is a Special Issues on eLISA/NGO

Stable counteralignment of a circumbinary disc

arXiv:1204.4185

by Nixon, Chris
5 pages, 4 figures. Accepted for publication in MNRAS

In general, when gas accretes on to a supermassive black hole binary it is likely to have no prior knowledge of the binary angular momentum. Therefore a circumbinary disc forms with a random inclination angle, theta, to the binary. It is known that for theta 90 degrees the disc wholly counteraligns if it satisfies cos(theta) 90 degrees and this criterion is not satisfied the same disc may counteralign its inner regions and, on longer timescales, coalign its outer regions. I show that for typical disc parameters, describing an accretion event on to a supermassive black hole binary, a misaligned circumbinary disc is likely to wholly co– or counter–align with the binary plane. This is because the binary angular momentum dominates the disc angular momentum. However with extreme parameters (binary mass ratio M_2/M_1 << 1 or binary eccentricity e ~ 1) the same disc may simultaneously co- and counter-align. It is known that coplanar prograde circumbinary discs are stable. I show that coplanar retrograde circumbinary discs are also stable. A chaotic accretion event on to an SMBH binary will therefore result in a coplanar circumbinary disc that is either prograde or retrograde with respect to the binary plane.

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