The photometric evolution of FU Orionis objects: disc instability and wind-envelope interaction

Research paper by C. Clarke, G. Lodato, S. Y. Melnikov, M. A. Ibrahimov

Indexed on: 25 May '05Published on: 25 May '05Published in: Astrophysics


We present the results of a photometric monitoring campaign of three well studied FU Orionis systems (FU Orionis, V1057 Cygni and V1515 Cygni) undertaken at Maidanak Observatory between 1981 and 2003. When combined with photometric data in the literature, this database provides a valuable resource for searching for short timescale variability - both periodic and aperiodic - as well as for studying the secular evolution of these systems. In the case of V1057 Cyg (which is the system exhibiting the largest changes in brightness since it went into outburst) we compare the photometric data with time dependent models. We show that prior to the end of the `plateau' stage in 1996, the evolution of V1057 Cyg in the $V-(B-V)$ colour-magnitude diagram is well represented by disc instability models in which the outburst is triggered by some agent - such as an orbiting planet - in the inner disc. Following the end of the plateau phase in 1996, the dimming and irregular variations are consistent with occultation of the source by a variable dust screen, which has previously been interpreted in terms of dust condensation events in the observed disc wind. Here we instead suggest that this effect results from the interaction between the wind and an infalling dusty envelope, the existence of this envelope having been previously invoked in order to explain the mid infrared emissio of FU Orionis systems. We discuss how this model may explain some of the photometric and spectroscopic characteristics of FU Orionis systems in general.