Subtle flickering in Cepheids
Fundamental mode classical Cepheids have light curves which repeat accurately enough that we can watch them evolve (change period). The new level of accuracy and quantity of data with the Kepler and MOST satellites probes this further. An intriguing result was found in the long time-series of Kepler data for V1154 Cyg the one classical Cepheid (fundamental mode, P = 4.9d) in the field, which has short term changes in period (≃20 minutes), correlated for ≃10 cycles (period jitter). To follow this up, we obtained a month long series of observations of the fundamental mode Cepheid RT Aur and the first overtone pulsator SZ Tau. RT Aur shows the traditional strict repetition of the light curve, with the Fourier amplitude ratio R1/R2 remaining nearly constant.
The light curve of SZ Tau, on the other hand, fluctuates in amplitude ratio at the level of approximately 50%. Furthermore prewhitening the RT Aur data with 10 frequencies reduces the Fourier spectrum to noise. For SZ Tau, considerable power is left after this prewhitening in a complicated variety of frequencies.
Authors: N. R. Evans, R. Szabo, L. Szabados, A. Derekas, L. Kiss, J. Matthews, C. Cameron, the MOST Team