Long-term variability of T Tauri stars using WASP

Laura Rigon, Alexander Scholz, David Anderson, Richard West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


We present a reference study of the long-term optical variability of young stars using data from the WASP project. Our primary sample is a group of well-studied classical T Tauri stars (CTTSs), mostly in Taurus-Auriga. WASP light curves cover time-scales of up to 7 yr and typically contain 10 000-30 000 data points. We quantify the variability as a function of time-scale using the time-dependent standard deviation'pooled sigma'. We find that the overwhelming majority of CTTSs have a low-level variability with σ <0.3 mag dominated by time-scales of a few weeks, consistent with rotational modulation. Thus, for most young stars, monitoring over a month is sufficient to constrain the total amount of variability over time-scales of up to a decade. The fraction of stars with a strong optical variability (σ > 0.3 mag) is 21 per cent in our sample and 21 per cent in an unbiased control sample. An even smaller fraction (13 per cent in our sample, 6 per cent in the control) show evidence for an increase in variability amplitude as a function of time-scale from weeks to months or years. The presence of long-term variability correlates with the spectral slope at 3-5μm, which is an indicator of inner disc geometry, and with the U-B band slope, which is an accretion diagnostics. This shows that the long-term variations in CTTSs are predominantly driven by processes in the inner disc and in the accretion zone. Four of the stars with long-term variations show periods of 20-60 d, significantly longer than the rotation periods and stable over months to years. One possible explanation is cyclic changes in the interaction between the disc andthe stellar magnetic field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3889-3901
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date17 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Protoplanetary discs
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Stars: formation
  • Stars: low-mass
  • Stars: variables: T Tauri
  • Herbig Ae/Be


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