Unstable standard candles. Periodic light curve modulation in fundamental mode classical Cepheids [SSA]


We report the discovery of periodic modulation of pulsation in 51 fundamental mode classical Cepheids of the Magellanic Clouds observed by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment. Although the overall incidence rate is very low, about 1 per cent in each of the Magellanic Clouds, in the case of the SMC and pulsation periods between 12 and 16d the incidence rate is nearly 40 per cent. On the other hand, in the LMC the highest incidence rate is 5 per cent for pulsation periods between 8 and 14d, and the overall amplitude of the effect is smaller. It indicates that the phenomenon is metallicity dependent. Typical modulation periods are between 70 and 300d. In nearly all stars the mean brightness is modulated, which, in principle, may influence the use of classical Cepheids for distance determination. Fortunately, the modulation of mean brightness does not exceed 0.01 mag in all but one star. Also, the effect averages out in typical observations spanning a long time base. Consequently, the effect of modulation on the determination of the distance moduli is negligible. The relative modulation amplitude of the fundamental mode is also low and, with one exception, it does not exceed 6 per cent. The origin of the modulation is unknown. We draw a hypothesis that the modulation is caused by the 2:1 resonance between the fundamental mode and the second overtone that shapes the famous Hertzsprung bump progression.

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R. Smolec
Fri, 17 Mar 17

Comments: 13 pages, 14 figures, accepted for publication in MNRAS

SPHERE / ZIMPOL observations of the symbiotic system R Aqr. I. Imaging of the stellar binary and the innermost jet clouds [SSA]


R Aqr is a symbiotic binary system consisting of a mira variable, a hot companion with a spectacular jet outflow, and an extended emission line nebula. We have used R Aqr as test target for the visual camera subsystem ZIMPOL, which is part of the new extreme adaptive optics (AO) instrument SPHERE at the Very Large Telescope (VLT).
We compare our observations with data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and illustrate the complementarity of the two instruments. We determine from the Halpha emission the position, size, geometric structure, and line fluxes of the jet source and the clouds in the innermost region (<2″) of R Aqr and determine Halpha emissivities mean density, mass, recombination time scale, and other cloud parameters.
Our data resolve for the first time the R Aqr binary and we measure for the jet source a relative position 46+/-1 mas West of the mira. The central jet source is the strongest Halpha component. North east and south west from the central source there are many clouds with very diverse structures. We see in the SW a string of bright clouds arranged in a zig-zag pattern and, further out, more extended bubbles. In the N and NE we see a bright, very elongated filamentary structure and faint perpendicular “wisps” further out. Some jet clouds are also detected in the ZIMPOL [OI] and He I filters, as well as in the HST line filters for Halpha, [OIII], [NII], and [OI]. We determine jet cloud parameters and find a very well defined anti-correlation between cloud density and distance to the central binary. Future Halpha observations will provide the orientation of the orbital plane of the binary and allow detailed hydrodynamical investigations of this jet outflow and its interaction with the wind of the red giant companion.

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H. Schmid, A. Bazzon, J. Milli, et. al.
Fri, 17 Mar 17

Comments: 24 pages, 14 figures (accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics)

Chemical abundances of fast-rotating massive stars. I. Description of the methods and individual results [SSA]


Aims: Recent observations have challenged our understanding of rotational mixing in massive stars by revealing a population of fast-rotating objects with apparently normal surface nitrogen abundances. However, several questions have arisen because of a number of issues, which have rendered a reinvestigation necessary; these issues include the presence of numerous upper limits for the nitrogen abundance, unknown multiplicity status, and a mix of stars with different physical properties, such as their mass and evolutionary state, which are known to control the amount of rotational mixing. Methods: We have carefully selected a large sample of bright, fast-rotating early-type stars of our Galaxy (40 objects with spectral types between B0.5 and O4). Their high-quality, high-resolution optical spectra were then analysed with the stellar atmosphere modelling codes DETAIL/SURFACE or CMFGEN, depending on the temperature of the target. Several internal and external checks were performed to validate our methods; notably, we compared our results with literature data for some well-known objects, studied the effect of gravity darkening, or confronted the results provided by the two codes for stars amenable to both analyses. Furthermore, we studied the radial velocities of the stars to assess their binarity. Results: This first part of our study presents our methods and provides the derived stellar parameters, He, CNO abundances, and the multiplicity status of every star of the sample. It is the first time that He and CNO abundances of such a large number of Galactic massive fast rotators are determined in a homogeneous way.

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C. Cazorla, T. Morel, Y. Naze, et. al.
Fri, 17 Mar 17

Comments: accepted for publication by A&A

Spin alignment of stars in old open clusters [SSA]


Stellar clusters form by gravitational collapse of turbulent molecular clouds, with up to several thousand stars per cluster. They are thought to be the birthplace of most stars and therefore play an important role in our understanding of star formation, a fundamental problem in astrophysics. The initial conditions of the molecular cloud establish its dynamical history until the stellar cluster is born. However, the evolution of the cloud’s angular momentum during cluster formation is not well understood. Current observations have suggested that turbulence scrambles the angular momentum of the cluster-forming cloud, preventing spin alignment amongst stars within a cluster. Here we use asteroseismology to measure the inclination angles of spin axes in 48 stars from the two old open clusters NGC~6791 and NGC~6819. The stars within each cluster show strong alignment. Three-dimensional hydrodynamical simulations of proto-cluster formation show that at least 50 % of the initial proto-cluster kinetic energy has to be rotational in order to obtain strong stellar-spin alignment within a cluster. Our result indicates that the global angular momentum of the cluster-forming clouds was efficiently transferred to each star and that its imprint has survived after several gigayears since the clusters formed.

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E. Corsaro, Y. Lee, R. Garcia, et. al.
Fri, 17 Mar 17

Comments: 14 pages, 3 figures, 1 table. Published in Nature Astronomy

Evolutionary sequences for hydrogen-deficient white dwarfs [SSA]


We present a set of full evolutionary sequences for white dwarfs with hydrogen-deficient atmospheres. We take into account the evolutionary history of the progenitor stars, all the relevant energy sources involved in the cooling, element diffusion in the very outer layers, and outer boundary conditions provided by new and detailed non-gray white dwarf model atmospheres for pure helium composition. These model atmospheres are based on the most up-to-date physical inputs. Our calculations extend down to very low effective temperatures, of $\sim 2\,500$~K, provide a homogeneous set of evolutionary cooling tracks that are appropriate for mass and age determinations of old hydrogen-deficient white dwarfs, and represent a clear improvement over previous efforts, which were computed using gray atmospheres.

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M. Camisassa, L. Althaus, R. Rohrmann, et. al.
Fri, 17 Mar 17

Comments: 40 pages, 13 figures. To be published in ApJ

Contribution of mode coupling and phase-mixing of Alfvén waves to coronal heating [SSA]


Phase-mixing of Alfv\’en waves in the solar corona has been identified as one possible candidate to explain coronal heating. While this scenario is supported by observations of ubiquitous oscillations in the corona carrying sufficient wave energy and by theoretical models that have described the concentration of energy in small scale structures, it is still unclear whether this wave energy can maintain the million degree solar corona. The aim of this work is to assess how much energy can be converted by a phase-mixing process triggered by the propagation of Alfv\’enic waves in a cylindric coronal structure, such as a coronal loop, and to estimate the impact on the coronal heating. To this end, we run 3D MHD simulations of a magnetised cylinder where the Alfv\’en speed varies through a boundary shell and a footpoint driver is set to trigger kink modes which mode couple to torsional Alfv\’en modes in the boundary shell. These Alfv\’en waves are expected to phase-mix and the system allows us to study the subsequent thermal energy deposition. We run a reference simulation to explain the main process and then we vary simulation parameters. When we take into consideration high values of magnetic resistivity and strong footpoint drivers, we find i) that phase-mixing leads to a temperature increase of the order of $10^5$ K or less, depending on the structure of the boundary shell, ii) that this energy is able to balance the radiative losses only in the localised region involved in the heating, iii) and how the boundary layer and the persistence of the driver influence the thermal structure of the system. Our conclusion is that due to the extreme physical parameters we adopted and the moderate impact on the heating of the system, it is unlikely that phase-mixing can contribute on a global scale to the heating of the solar corona.

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P. Pagano and I. Moortel
Fri, 17 Mar 17

Comments: N/A

Time Dependent Models of Magnetospheric Accretion onto Young Stars [SSA]


Accretion onto Classical T Tauri stars is thought to take place through the action of magnetospheric processes, with gas in the inner disk being channeled onto the star’s surface by the stellar magnetic field lines. Young stars are known to accrete material in a time-variable manner and the source of this variability remains an open problem, particularly on the shortest (~ day) timescales. Using one-dimensional time-dependent numerical simulations that follow the field line geometry, we find that for plausibly realistic young stars, steady-state transonic accretion occurs naturally in the absence of any other source of variability. However, we show that if the density in the inner disk varies smoothly in time with ~ day long time-scales (e.g., due to turbulence) this complication can lead to the development of shocks in the accretion column. These shocks propagate along the accretion column and ultimately hit the star, leading to rapid, large amplitude changes in the accretion rate. We argue that when these shocks hit the star the observed time-dependence will be a rapid increase in accretion luminosity followed by a slower decline and could be an explanation for some of the short period variability observed in accreting young stars. Our one-dimensional approach bridges previous analytic work to more complicated, multi-dimensional simulations, and observations.

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C. Robinson, J. Owen, C. Espaillat, et. al.
Fri, 17 Mar 17

Comments: 16 Pages, 12 figures