EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 482, Number 2, May I 2008
Page(s) 691 - 697
Section Planets and planetary systems
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20078952
Published online 25 February 2008

A&A 482, 691-697 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20078952

MOST detects variability on $\tau$ Bootis A possibly induced by its planetary companion

G. A. H. Walker1, B. Croll2, J. M. Matthews3, R. Kuschnig4, D. Huber4, W. W. Weiss4, E. Shkolnik5, S. M. Rucinski6, D. B. Guenther7, A. F.J. Moffat8, and D. Sasselov9

1  1234 Hewlett Place, Victoria, BC V8S 4P7, Canada
    e-mail: gordonwa@uvic.ca
2  Dept. of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Univ. Toronto, 50 George St., Toronto, ON M5S 3H4, Canada
3  Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, UBC, 6224 Agricultural Road, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1, Canada
4  Institut für Astronomie, Universität Wien Türkenschanzstrasse 17, 1180 Wien, Austria
5  NASA Astrobiology Institute, University of Hawaii, Manoa
6  Dept. of Astronomy & Astrophysics, David Dunlap Obs., Univ. Toronto PO Box 360, Richmond Hill, ON L4C 4Y6, Canada
7  Department of Astronomy and Physics, St. Mary's University Halifax, NS B3H 3C3, Canada
8  Dépt. de physique, Univ. de Montréal CP 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, and Obs. du mont Mégantic, Canada
9  Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

(Received 29 October 2007 / Accepted 19 February 2008)

Context. There is considerable interest in the possible interaction between parent stars and giant planetary companions in 51 Peg-type systems.
Aims. We shall demonstrate from MOST satellite photometry and Ca II K line emission that there has been a persistent, variable region on the surface of $\tau$ Boo A, which tracked its giant planetary companion for some 440 planetary revolutions and lies ~68$^{\circ}$ ($\phi=0.8$) in advance of the sub-planetary point.
Methods. The light curves are folded on a range of periods centered on the planetary orbital period, and phase-dependent variability is quantified by Fourier methods and by the mean absolute deviation (MAD) of the folded data for both the photometry and the Ca II K line reversals.
Results. The region varies in brightness on the time scale of a rotation by ~1 mmag. In 2004 it resembled a dark spot of variable depth, while in 2005 it varied between bright and dark. The 2004 light curve gives a spot rotation period of $3.5 \pm0.7$ d compared to the known planetary orbital period of 3.3125 d. The amplitude spectrum of the 2005 light curve shows no marked peak at the orbital period but the mean absolute deviation (MAD) of the light curve has a well-defined maximum (half width ~0.15 d) centered on the orbital frequency. Over the 123 planetary orbits spanned by the photometry, the variable region detected in 2004 and in 2005 are synchronized to the planetary orbital period within 0.0015 d. The Ca II K line in 2001, 2002, and 2003 also shows enhanced K-line variability centered on $\phi=0.8$, extending coverage to some 440 planetary revolutions.
Conclusions. The apparently constant rotation period of the variable region and its rapid variation make an explanation in terms of conventional star spots unlikely. The lack of complementary variability at $\phi=0.3$ and the detection of the variable region so far in advance of the sub-planetary point excludes tidal excitation, but the combined photometric and Ca II K line reversal results make a good case for an active region induced magnetically on the surface of $\tau$ Boo A by its planetary companion.

Key words: stars: activity -- stars: individual: $\tau$ Boo -- stars: early-type -- stars: starspots -- stars: rotation -- stars: planetary systems

© ESO 2008

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