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

Alexander Scholz, Koraljka Muzic, Vincent Geers

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5 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date22 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2015


  • Accretion, accretion discs
  • Stars: activity
  • Brown dwarfs
  • Stars: low-mass
  • Stars: pre-main sequence


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