Grain Size segregation in debris discs

In most debris discs, dust grain dynamics is strongly affected by stellar radiation pressure. As this mechanism is size-dependent, we expect dust grains to be spatially segregated according to their sizes. However, because of the complex interplay between radiation pressure, collisions and dynamical perturbations, this spatial segregation of the particle size distribution (PSD) has proven difficult to investigate with numerical models. We propose to explore this issue using a new-generation code that can handle some of the coupling between dynamical and collisional effects. We investigate how PSDs behave in both unperturbed discs “at rest” and in discs pertubed by planetary objects. We use the DyCoSS code of Thebault(2012) to investigate the coupled effect of collisions, radiation pressure and dynamical perturbations in systems having reached a steady state. We consider 2 setups: a narrow ring perturbed by an exterior planet, and an extended disc into which a planet is embedded. For both setups we consider an additional unperturbed case with no planet. We also investigate how possible spatial size segregation affect disc images at different wavelengths. We find that PSDs are always strongly spatially segregated. The only case for which they follow a standard dn/dr = C.r**(-3.5) law is for an unperturbed narrow ring, but only within the parent body ring itself. For all other configurations, the PSD can strongly depart from such power laws and have strong spatial gradients. As an example, the geometrical cross section of the disc is rarely dominated by the smallest grains on bound orbits, as it is expected to be in standard PSDs in s**q with q<-3. Although the exact profiles and spatial variations of PSDs are a complex function of the considered set-up, we are however able to derive some robust results that should be useful for image-or-SED-fitting models of observed discs.

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Date added: Tue, 8 Oct 13