Exploring the Long-Term and Extreme Variability of Stars

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Exploring the Long-Term and Extreme Variability of Stars

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Title: Exploring the Long-Term and Extreme Variability of Stars
Author: Tang, Sumin
Citation: Tang, Sumin. 2012. Exploring the Long-Term and Extreme Variability of Stars. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This thesis presents observational studies of long-term and extreme variability of stars with the Digital Access to a Sky Century@Harvard (DASCH) project. Stellar variations over decades are poorly explored. With the unique 100 years coverage of DASCH, for the first time, we are able to study the variable sky over long timescales in a systematic way. I have developed photometric calibration and variable search algorithms for DASCH. I have discovered exciting new types of long-term variables, which do not match any of the common classes, and studied the physical processes involved. Following a brief introduction on variable stars and DASCH in the first chapter, I describe my work on DASCH pipeline, including photometric development and defect filtering in chapter 2. I present our discovery of a group of peculiar long-term K giant variables with \(\sim1\) mag variations over decades in chapter 3. Follow-up observations show that they consist of two subgroups, including a subgroup of RS CVn binaries with strong magnetic activity, and another subgroup of single stars. In both cases, the variation amplitudes and timescales are abnormal, and may be related to either ultra strong star spots, or novel dust formation processes. In chapter 4, I present the discovery of a 5 yr dip around 1900 in the eclipsing binary KU Cyg consisting of a F star and a K giant, which is related to the accretion disk surrounding the F star. It showed a slow fading \((\sim 4 yr)\), which is probably caused by increases in dust extinction in the disk, and a relatively fast brightening \((\sim 1 yr)\), which may be due to the evaporation of dust transported inward through the disk. The extinction excess which caused the fading may arise from an increased mass transfer rate in the system or from dust clump ejections from the K giant, in accordance with K giant “dimming” as discussed above. In chapter 5, I present a 10 yr nova-like outburst in a peculiar symbiotic system. With P = 119 days, it is interestingly located in the period gap region between classical novae and symbiotic novae. The most probable explanation of the outburst is hydrogen shell-burning on the white dwarf (WD) without significant mass loss, which suggests a promising new channel for Type Ia Supernovae (SNe). In chapter 6, I present the DASCH light curves of Kepler planet-candidate host stars. We found no variation for these host stars. In chapter 7, I present my variable search algorithms and the resulting DASCH variable catalog for the Kepler field. The conclusion is presented in chapter 8.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9453703
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