AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

Disk Instabilities Caused the 2018 Outburst of AG Draconis

Volume 48 number 1 (2020)

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Helena M. Richie
Physics and Astronomy Department, University of Pittsburgh, 3941 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; her45@pitt.edu
W. M. Wood-Vasey
Physics and Astronomy Department, University of Pittsburgh, 3941 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; wmwv@pitt.edu
Lou Coban
Physics and Astronomy Department, University of Pittsburgh, 3941 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; coban@pitt.edu

Abstract

The symbiotic binary AG Draconis (AG Dra) has a well-established outburst behavior based on an extensive observational history. Usually, the system undergoes a 9- to 15-year period of quiescence with a constant average energy emitted, during which the system's orbital period of ~ 550 d can be seen at shorter wavelengths (particularly in the U-band) as well as a shorter period of ~ 355 d thought to be due to pulsations of the cool component. After a quiescent period, the marker of an active period is usually a major (cool) outburst of up to V = 8.4 mag, followed by a series of minor (hot) outbursts repeating at a period of approximately 1 year. However, in 2016 April after a 9-year period of quiescence, AG Dra exhibited unusual behavior: it began an active phase with a minor outburst followed by two more minor outbursts repeating at an interval of ~ 1 year. We present R-band observations of AG Dra’s 2018 April minor outburst and an analysis of the outburst mechanism and reports on the system's activity levels following the time of its next expected outburst. By considering the brightening and cooling times, the scale of the outburst, and its temperature evolution we have determined that this outburst was of disk instability in nature.