The young low-mass star ISO-Oph-50: Extreme variability induced by a clumpy, evolving circumstellar disk

Scholz, Aleks; Muzic, Koraljka; Geers, Vincent
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 451, Issue 1, p.26-33 (2015).


ISO-Oph-50 is a young low-mass object in the ˜1 Myr old Ophiuchus star-forming region undergoing dramatic changes in its optical/near/mid-infrared brightness by 2-4 mag. We present new multi-band photometry and near-infrared spectra, combined with a synopsis of the existing literature data. Based on the spectroscopy, the source is confirmed as a mid-M dwarf, with evidence for ongoing accretion. The near-infrared light curves show large-scale variations, with 2-4 mag amplitude in the bands IJHK, with the object generally being bluer when faint. Near its brightest state, the object shows colour changes consistent with variable extinction of ΔAV ˜ 7 mag. High-cadence monitoring at 3.6 μm reveals quasi-periodic variations with a typical time-scale of 1-2 weeks. The best explanation for these characteristics is a low-mass star seen through circumstellar matter, whose complex variability is caused by changing inhomogeneities in the inner parts of the disc. When faint, the direct stellar emission is blocked; the near-infrared radiation is dominated by scattered light. When bright, the emission is consistent with a photosphere strongly reddened by circumstellar dust. Based on the available constraints, the inhomogeneities have to be located at or beyond ˜0.1 au distance from the star. If this scenario turns out to be correct, a major portion of the inner disc has to be clumpy, structured, and/or in turmoil. In its observational characteristics, this object resembles other types of young stellar objects with variability caused in the inner disc. Compared to other objects, however, ISO-Oph-50 is clearly an extreme case, given the large amplitude of the brightness and colour changes combined with the erratic behaviour. ISO-Oph-50 has been near its brightest state since 2013; further monitoring is highly encouraged.