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Episodic Accretion in Young Stars

In the last twenty years, the topic of episodic accretion has gained significant interest in the star formation community. It is now viewed as a common, though still poorly understood, phenomenon in low-mass star formation. The FU Orionis objects (FUors) are long-studied examples of this phenomenon. FUors are believed to undergo accretion outbursts during which the accretion rate rapidly increases from typically 10−7 to a few 10−4 M⊙ yr−1, and remains elevated over several decades or more. EXors, a loosely defined class of pre-main sequence stars, exhibit shorter and repetitive outbursts, associated with lower accretion rates. The relationship between the two classes, and their connection to the standard pre-main sequence evolutionary sequence, is an open question: do they represent two distinct classes, are they triggered by the same physical mechanism, and do they occur in the same evolutionary phases? Over the past couple of decades, many theoretical and numerical models have been developed to explain the origin of FUor and EXor outbursts. In parallel, such accretion bursts have been detected at an increasing rate, and as observing techniques improve each individual outburst is studied in increasing detail. We summarize key observations of pre-main sequence star outbursts, and review the latest thinking on outburst triggering mechanisms, the propagation of outbursts from star/disk to disk/jet systems, the relation between classical EXors and FUors, and newly discovered outbursting sources -- all of which shed new light on episodic accretion. We finally highlight some of the most promising directions for this field in the near- and long-term.

Authors: Marc Audard, Péter Ábrahám, Michael M. Dunham, Joel D. Green, Nicolas Grosso, Kenji Hamaguchi, Joel H. Kastner, Ágnes Kóspál, Giuseppe Lodato, Marina Romanova, Stephen L. Skinner, Eduard I. Vorobyov, Zhaohuan Zhu

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