The historical light curve of the symbiotic star AG Draconis: Intense, magnetically induced cyclic activity

Liliana Formiggini*, Elia M. Leibowitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We analyse the historical optical light curve of the symbiotic system AG Draconis, covering the last 120 years. During the first 31 years the brightness of the star has not been varying by more than 0.1mag. A weak periodic signal with the binary period of the system of ~550d can be detected in this section of the light curve, as well as in all other later quiescence sections of it. Around the year 1922, the quiescence brightness of the star increased by 0.29mag. Since then, the star's photometric history is marked by a series of brightness fluctuations with an amplitude of 1-2mag and a typical duration of 100-200d. The time intervals between outbursts are integral numbers of the period 373.5d. The outbursts are grouped in six dense clusters, each one lasting some 1500d, which are well separated from one another along the time axis with a quasi-periodicity of 5300d. We suggest that the outbursts of the system are triggered by episodes of intense mass outflow from the atmosphere of the cool star on to the environment of the hot component. The 373.5d cycle is the length of a 'day' on the surface of the giant that rotates in retrograde direction with a sidereal period of 1160d. A weak signal with this periodicity is also present in the light curve. The modulation of mass transfer in the system is a combined effect of a dipole magnetic field of the giant star and the tides induced in its atmosphere by its binary companion. The 5300d quasi-period is that of a solar-like magnetic dynamo process that operates in the outer layers of the giant. The combined effect of the 5300 and 373.5d cycles induces a second mode of pulsation of the giant star with the period of 350d. AG Dra is the fifth symbiotic system that shows in its historical light curve this type of intense magnetic and magnetically induced activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2648-2655
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Binaries: symbiotic
  • Stars: individual: AG Dra
  • Stars: magnetic field
  • Stars: rotation


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