On the Origin of Dust Structures in Protoplanetary Disks: Constraints from the Rossby Wave Instability

Eonho Chang, Andrew N. Youdin, Leonardo Krapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


High-resolution submillimeter observations of protoplanetary disks with ALMA have revealed that dust rings are common in large, bright disks. The leading explanation for these structures is dust trapping in a local gas pressure maximum, caused by an embedded planet or other dynamical process. Independent of origin, such dust traps should be stable for many orbits to collect significant dust. However, ringlike perturbations in gas disks are also known to trigger the Rossby wave instability (RWI). We investigate whether axisymmetric pressure bumps can simultaneously trap dust and remain stable to the RWI. The answer depends on the thermodynamic properties of pressure bumps. For isothermal bumps, dust traps are RWI stable for widths from ∼1 to several gas scale heights. Adiabatic dust traps are stable over a smaller range of widths. For temperature bumps with no surface density component, however, all dust traps tend to be unstable. Smaller values of disk aspect ratio allow stable dust trapping at lower bump amplitudes and over a larger range of widths. We also report a new approximate criterion for RWI. Instability occurs when the radial oscillation frequency is ≲75% of the Keplerian frequency, which differs from the well-known Lovelace necessary (but not sufficient) criterion for instability. Our results can guide ALMA observations of molecular gas by constraining the resolution and sensitivity needed to identify the pressure bumps thought to be responsible for dust rings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL1
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'On the Origin of Dust Structures in Protoplanetary Disks: Constraints from the Rossby Wave Instability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this