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Astron. Astrophys. 322, 576-590 (1997)

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The UV/X-ray emission of the symbiotic star AG Draconis during quiescence and the 1994/1995 outbursts *

small.htm J. Greiner 1, K. Bickert 1, R. Luthardt 2, R. Viotti 3, A. Altamore 4, R. González-Riestra ** 5 and R.E. Stencel 6

1 Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, D-85740 Garching, Germany
2 Sternwarte Sonneberg, D-96515 Sonneberg, Germany
3 Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale, CNR, Via Enrico Fermi 21, I-00044 Frascati, Italy
4 Dipartimento di Fisica E. Amaldi, Università Roma III, I-00146 Roma, Italy
5 IUE Observatory, ESA, Villafranca del Castillo, P.O. Box 50727, E-28080 Madrid, Spain
6 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208, USA

Received 7 May 1996 / Accepted 22 November 1996


We present the results of an extensive campaign of coordinated X-ray (ROSAT) and UV (IUE) observations of the symbiotic star AG Dra during a long period of quiescence followed recently by a remarkable phase of activity characterized by two optical outbursts. The major optical outburst in June 1994 and the secondary outburst in July 1995 were covered by a number of target of opportunity observations (TOO) with both satellites. Optical photometry is used to establish the state of evolution along the outburst.

Our outburst observations are supplemented by a substantial number of X-ray observations of AG Dra during its quiescent phase between 1990-1993. Near-simultaneous IUE observations at the end of 1992 are used to derive the spectral energy distribution from the optical to the X-ray range. The X-ray flux remained constant over this three year quiescent phase. The hot component (i.e. X-ray emitting compact object) turns out to be very luminous: a blackbody fit to the X-ray data in quiescence with an absorbing column equal to the total galactic [FORMULA] in this direction gives (9.5 [FORMULA] 1.5) [FORMULA] 1036 (D/2.5 kpc)2 erg/s. This suggests that the compact object is burning hydrogen-rich matter on its surface even in the quiescent (as defined optically) state at a rate of (3.2 [FORMULA] 0.5) [FORMULA] 10-8 (D/2.5 kpc)2 [FORMULA] /yr. Assuming a steady state, i.e. burning at precisely the accretion supply rate, this high rate suggests a Roche lobe filling cool companion though Bondi-Hoyle accretion from the companion wind cannot be excluded.

With ROSAT observations we have discovered a remarkable decrease of the X-ray flux during both optical maxima, followed by a gradual recovering to the pre-outburst flux. In the UV these events were characterized by a large increase of the emission line and continuum fluxes, comparable to the behaviour of AG Dra during the 1980-81 active phase. The anticorrelation of X-ray/UV flux and optical brightness evolution is very likely due to a temperature decrease of the hot component. Such a temperature decrease could be the result of an increased mass transfer to the burning compact object, causing it to slowly expand to about twice its original size during each optical outburst.

Key words: binaries: symbiotic – stars: individual: AG Dra – ultraviolet: stars – X-rays: stars – white dwarfs

* Based on observations made with the International Ultraviolet Explorer collected at the Villafranca Satellite Tracking Station of the European Space Agency, Spain.
** Also Astronomy Division, Space Science Department, ESTEC.

Send offprint requests to: J. Greiner (jgreiner@aip.de)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: June 5, 1998