Short-term variability and mass loss in Be stars
I. BRITE satellite photometry of η and μ Centauri⋆
European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere
(ESO), Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2,
2 European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
3 Astronomical Institute, Wrocław University, Kopernika 11, 51-622 Wrocław, Poland
4 Instituto de Astronomia, Geofísica e Ciências Atmosféricas, Universidade de São Paulo, Rua do Matão 1226, Cidade Universitária, 05508-900 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
5 Département de physique and Centre de Recherche en Astrophysique du Québec (CRAQ), Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3J7, Canada
6 Department of Physics, Royal Military College of Canada, PO Box 17000, Stn Forces, Kingston, Ontario K7K 7B4, Canada
7 Institute of Astronomy, University of Vienna, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Vienna, Austria
8 Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, ul. Bartycka 18, 00-716 Warsaw, Poland
9 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T1Z1, Canada
10 Institute of Automatic Control, Silesian University of Technology, Gliwice, Poland
11 Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, 50 St. George St, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3H4, Canada
Received: 21 December 2015
Accepted: 1 February 2016
Context. Empirical evidence for the involvement of nonradial pulsations (NRPs) in the mass loss from Be stars ranges from (i) a singular case (μ Cen) of repetitive mass ejections triggered by multi-mode beating to (ii) several photometric reports about enormous numbers of pulsation modes that suddenly appear during outbursts and on to (iii) effective single-mode pulsators.
Aims. The purpose of this study is to develop a more detailed empirical description of the star-to-disk mass transfer and to check the hypothesis that spates of transient nonradial pulsation modes accompany and even drive mass-loss episodes.
Methods. The BRITE Constellation of nanosatellites was used to obtain mmag photometry of the Be stars η and μ Cen.
Results. In the low-inclination star μ Cen, light pollution by variable amounts of near-stellar matter prevented any new insights into the variability and other properties of the central star. In the equator-on star η Cen, BRITE photometry and Heros echelle spectroscopy from the 1990s reveal an intricate clockwork of star-disk interactions. The mass transfer is modulated with the frequency difference of two NRP modes and an amplitude three times as large as the amplitude sum of the two NRP modes. This process feeds a high-amplitude circumstellar activity running with the incoherent and slightly lower so-called Štefl frequency. The mass-loss-modulation cycles are tightly coupled to variations in the value of the Štefl frequency and in its amplitude, albeit with strongly drifting phase differences.
Conclusions. The observations are well described by the decomposition of the mass loss into a pulsation-related engine in the star and a viscosity-dominated engine in the circumstellar disk. Arguments are developed that large-scale gas-circulation flows occur at the interface. The propagation rates of these eddies manifest themselves as Štefl frequencies. Bursts in power spectra during mass-loss events can be understood as the noise inherent to these gas flows.
Key words: circumstellar matter / stars: emission-line, Be / stars: mass-loss / stars: oscillations / stars: individual:ηCentauri / stars: individual:μCentauri
Based on data collected by the BRITE-Constellation satellite mission, built, launched and operated thanks to support from the Austrian Aeronautics and Space Agency and the University of Vienna, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the Foundation for Polish Science & Technology (FNiTP MNiSW) and National Science Centre (NCN). Based in part also on observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere under ESO programme 093.D-0367(A).
© ESO, 2016