Aluminum-26 Enrichment in the Surface of Protostellar Disks Due to Protostellar Cosmic RaysOPEN ACCESS 

Brandt A. L. Gaches, Stefanie Walch, Stella S. R. Offner, Carsten Münker

The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 898, Number 1
Published 2020 July 27



“The radioactive decay of aluminum-26 (26Al) is an important heating source in early planet formation. Since its discovery, there have been several mechanisms proposed to introduce 26Al into protoplanetary disks, primarily through contamination by external sources. We propose a local mechanism to enrich protostellar disks with 26Al through irradiation of the protostellar disk surface by cosmic rays accelerated in the protostellar accretion shock. We calculate the 26Al enrichment, [26Al/27Al ], at the surface of the protostellar disk in the inner au throughout the evolution of low-mass stars, from M-dwarfs to proto-Suns. Assuming constant mass accretion rates, m, we find that irradiation by MeV cosmic rays can provide significant enrichment on the disk surface if the cosmic rays are not completely coupled to the gas in the accretion flow. Importantly, we find that low accretion rates, m < 10^-7 M ⊙ yr−1, are able to produce canonical amounts of 26Al, [26Al/27Al] ≈ 5×10^-5. These accretion rates are experienced at the transition from Class I- to Class II-type protostars, when it is assumed that calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions condense in the inner disk. We conclude that irradiation of the inner disk surface by cosmic-ray protons accelerated in accretion shocks at the protostellar surface may be an important mechanism to produce 26Al. Our models show protostellar cosmic rays may be a viable model to explain the enrichment of 26Al found in the solar system.”