We calculate self-consistent models of X-ray-irradiated accretion discs in close binary systems. We show that a point X-ray source powered by accretion and located in the disc plane cannot modify the disc structure, mainly because of the self-screening by the disc of its outer regions. As observations show that the emission of the outer disc regions in low-mass X-ray binaries is dominated by the reprocessed X-ray flux, accretion discs in these systems must be either warped or irradiated by a source above the disc plane, or both. We analyse the thermal-viscous stability of irradiated accretion discs and derive the stability criteria of such systems. We find that, contrary to the usual assumptions, the critical accretion rate below which a disc is unstable is rather uncertain because the correct formula describing irradiation is not well known.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Pub Date:
- February 1999
- ACCRETION DISCS;
- BINARIES : CLOSE;
- X-RAYS: GENERAL;
- to be published in MNRAS, uses epsfig.sty