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Published May 1, 2013 | Published
Journal Article Open

Disk-related Bursts and Fades in Young Stars


We present first results from a new, multiyear, time domain survey of young stars in the North America Nebula complex using the Palomar Transient Factory. Our survey is providing an unprecedented view of aperiodic variability in young stars on timescales of days to years. The analyzed sample covers R_(PTF) ≈ 13.5-18 and spans a range of mid-infrared color, with larger-amplitude optical variables (exceeding 0.4 mag root mean squared) more likely to have mid-infrared evidence for circumstellar material. This paper characterizes infrared excess stars with distinct bursts above or fades below a baseline of lower-level variability, identifying 41 examples. The light curves exhibit a remarkable diversity of amplitudes, timescales, and morphologies, with a continuum of behaviors that cannot be classified into distinct groups. Among the bursters, we identify three particularly promising sources that may represent theoretically predicted short-timescale accretion instabilities. Finally, we find that fading behavior is approximately twice as common as bursting behavior on timescales of days to years, although the bursting and fading duty cycle for individual objects often varies from year to year.

Additional Information

© 2013 American Astronomical Society. Received 2012 December 21; accepted 2013 March 13; published 2013 April 17. We thank Asaaf Horesh, Kunal Mooley, and Yi Cao for acquiring a spectrum of FHO 7 for us, Gregory Herczeg for reducing the HYDRA and Norris spectroscopic data, Susan Tokarz for reducing the Hectospec data, and Evan Kirby for helping us with the DEIMOS pipeline. We thank the anonymous referee for several comments that improved our presentation. We also thank John Carpenter and Nairn Baliber for much helpful discussion and suggestions for tests to run, and Luisa Rebull for providing us with a copy of the Spitzer data. This paper uses data products produced by the OIR Telescope Data Center, supported by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W.M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W.M. Keck Foundation. Facilities: PO:1.2m (P48 Survey Camera), Keck:II (DEIMOS), MMT (Hectospec), WIYN (HYDRA), Hale (Norris)

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