University of Leicester
MNRAS-2013-Nixon-1946-54.pdf (4.62 MB)

Tearing up the disc: misaligned accretion on to a binary

Download (4.62 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2016-05-16, 08:28 authored by Chris J. Nixon, Andrew King, Daniel Price
In a recent paper, we have shown that the evolution of a misaligned disc around a spinning black hole can result in tearing the disc into many distinct planes. Tearing discs with random orientations produce direct dynamical accretion on to the hole in ≈70 per cent of all cases. Here, we examine the evolution of a misaligned disc around a binary system. We show that these discs are susceptible to tearing for almost all inclinations. We also show that tearing of the disc can result in a significant acceleration of the disc evolution and subsequent accretion on to the binary – by factors up to 104 times that of a coplanar prograde disc with otherwise identical parameters. This provides a promising mechanism for driving mergers of supermassive black hole (SMBH) binaries on time-scales much shorter than a Hubble time. Disc tearing also suggests new observational signatures of accreting SMBH binaries and other systems such as protostellar binaries.


Support for this work was provided by NAS through the Einstein Fellowship Programme, grant PF2130098. Research in theoretical astrophysics at Leicester is supported by an STFC Consolidated Grant. We used SPLASH (Price 2007) for the visualization. The calculations for this paper were performed on the Complexity node of the DiRAC2 HPC Facility which is jointly funded by STFC, the department of Business Innovation and Skills and the University of Leicester.



Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2013, 434 (3), pp. 1946-1954

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Physics and Astronomy


  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society





Acceptance date


Copyright date


Available date


Publisher version