Monte Carlo Simulations of Radiative Transfer: Project Overview

The goal of this project was to simulate radiative transfer in the circumbinary disk GG Tau by using statistical methods (i.e. Monte Carlo methods). To provide some context for the project, I will describe the astrophysical system that I considered, and I will describe the objectives of the project

Of the many stars in the night sky, a significant number of them, when you are able to resolve them, are in fact binary stars. These are star systems in which two stars orbit a common center of mass known as a barycenter. For this reason, we regard GG Tau to be a close binary system; a system in which two stars are separated by a significant distance comparable to the diameters of each star.

The system of GG Tau has four known components with a hypothesized fifth component. There is a disk of material encircling the entire system which we call a circumbinary disk. Additionally, there is also an inner disk of material that surrounds the primary and secondary components referred to as a circumstellar disk.

The goal of this project was to use Monte Carlo methods to simulate radiative transfer processes present in GG Tau. This is accomplished through the use of importance sampling two essential quantities over cumulative distribution function of the form

\displaystyle \xi=\int_{0}^{L} \mathcal{P}(x)dx\equiv \psi(x_{0}),  (1)

using FORTRAN code. I will discuss the mathematical background of probability and Monte Carlo methods (stochastic processes) in more detail in a later post. The general process of radiative transfer is relatively simple. Starting with an emitter,  radiation travels from its emission point, travels a certain distance, and at this point the radiation could either be scattered into an angle different from the incidence angle, or it can be absorbed by the material. In the context of this project, the emitter (or emitters) are the primary and secondary components of GG Tau. The radiation emitted is electromagnetic radiation, or light. This light will travel a distance L after which the light is either scattered or absorbed. The code uses Eq.(1) (cumulative distribution function) to sample optical depths and scattering angles to calculate the distance traveled L. I will reserve the exact algorithm for a future post as well. In the next post, I will discuss the basics of radiative transfer theory as presented in the text “Radiative Transfer” by S. Chandrasekhar, 1960.


The following are the sources  used in this project

Wood, K., Whitney, B., Bjorkman, J., and Wolff M., 2013. Introduction to Monte Carlo Radiative Transfer.

Whitney, B. A., 2011. Monte Carlo Radiative Transfer. Bull. Astr. Soc. India.

Kitamura, Y., Kawabe, R., Omodaka, T., Ishiguro, M., and Miyama, S., 1994. Rotating Protoplanetary Gas Disk in GG Tau. ASP Conference Series. Vol. 59.

Piètu, V., Gueth, F., Hily-Blant, P., Schuster, K.F., and Pety, J., 2011. High Resolution Imaging of the GG Tauri system at 267 GHz. Astronomy & Astrophysics. 528. A81.

Skrutskie, M.F., Snell, R.L., Strom, K.M., Strom, S.E., and Edwards, S., 1993. Detection of Circumstellar Gas Associated with GG Tauri. The Astrophysical Journal. 409:422-428.

Choudhuri, A.R., 2010. Astrophysics for Physicists. 2.

Carroll B.W., Ostlie, D.A., 2007. An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics. 9,10.

Chandrasekhar, S., 1960. Radiative Transfer. 1.

Schroeder, D., 2000. Introduction to Thermal Physics. 8.

Ross, S., 2010. Introduction to Probability Model. 2,4,11.


I obtained the FORTRAN code from K. Wood via the following link. (For the sake of completeness the URL is:


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