Periodic and Aperiodic Variability in the Molecular Cloud ρ Ophiuchus


Presented are the results of a near-IR photometric survey of 1678 stars in the direction of the ρ Ophiuchus (ρ Oph) star forming region using data from the 2MASS Calibration Database. For each target in this sample, up to 1584 individual J-, H-, and Ks -band photometric measurements with a cadence of ~1 day are obtained over three observing seasons spanning ~2.5 yr; it is the most intensive survey of stars in this region to date. This survey identifies 101 variable stars with ΔKs -band amplitudes from 0.044 to 2.31 mag and Δ(J - Ks ) color amplitudes ranging from 0.053 to 1.47 mag. Of the 72 young ρ Oph star cluster members included in this survey, 79% are variable; in addition, 22 variable stars are identified as candidate members. Based on the temporal behavior of the Ks time-series, the variability is distinguished as either periodic, long time-scale or irregular. This temporal behavior coupled with the behavior of stellar colors is used to assign a dominant variability mechanism. A new period-searching algorithm finds periodic signals in 32 variable stars with periods between 0.49 to 92 days. The chief mechanism driving the periodic variability for 18 stars is rotational modulation of cool starspots while 3 periodically vary due to accretion-induced hot spots. The time-series for six variable stars contains discrete periodic "eclipse-like" features with periods ranging from 3 to 8 days. These features may be asymmetries in the circumstellar disk, potentially sustained or driven by a proto-planet at or near the co-rotation radius. Aperiodic, long time-scale variations in stellar flux are identified in the time-series for 31 variable stars with time-scales ranging from 64 to 790 days. The chief mechanism driving long time-scale variability is variable extinction or mass accretion rates. The majority of the variable stars (40) exhibit sporadic, aperiodic variability over no discernable time-scale. No chief variability mechanism could be identified for these variable stars.


Physics, Astronomy, and Materials Science

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© 2014 The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved

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The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series