Amplitude variations of modulated RV Tauri stars support the dust obscuration model of the RVb phenomenon
1 Konkoly Observatory, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1121 Budapest, Konkoly Thege M. út 15–17, Hungary
2 Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics A28, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
3 Department of Experimental Physics and Astronomical Observatory, University of Szeged, 6720 Szeged, Dóm tér 9., Hungary
Received: 1 September 2017
Accepted: 9 November 2017
Context. RV Tauri-type variables are pulsating post-asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars that evolve rapidly through the instability strip after leaving the AGB. Their light variability is dominated by radial pulsations. Members of the RVb subclass show an additional variability in the form of a long-term modulation of the mean brightness, for which the most popular theories all assume binarity and some kind of circumstellar dust. Here we assess whether or not the amplitude modulations are consistent with the dust obscuration model.
Aims. We measure and interpret the overall changes of the mean amplitude of the pulsations along the RVb variability.
Methods. We compiled long-term photometric data for RVb-type stars, including visual observations of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, ground-based CCD photometry from the OGLE and ASAS projects, and ultra-precise space photometry of one star, DF Cygni, from theKepler space telescope. After converting all the observations to flux units, we measure the cycle-to-cycle variations of the pulsation amplitude and correlate them to the actual mean fluxes.
Results. We find a surprisingly uniform correlation between the pulsation amplitude and the mean flux; they scale linearly with each other for a wide range of fluxes and amplitudes. This means that the pulsation amplitude actually remains constant when measured relative to the system flux level. The apparent amplitude decrease in the faint states has long been noted in the literature but it was always claimed to be difficult to explain with the actual models of the RVb phenomenon. Here we show that when fluxes are used instead of magnitudes, the amplitude attenuation is naturally explained by periodic obscuration from a large opaque screen, one most likely corresponding to a circumbinary dusty disk that surrounds the whole system.
Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: oscillations / stars: variables: general / binaries: general
© ESO, 2017