Spots, Flares, Accretion, and Obscuration in the Pre-main-sequence Binary DQ Tau

DQ Tau is a young low-mass spectroscopic binary, consisting of two almost equal-mass stars on a 15.8 day period surrounded by a circumbinary disk. Here, we analyze DQ Tau’s light curves obtained by Kepler K2, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based facilities. We observed variability phenomena, including rotational modulation by stellar spots, brief brightening events due to stellar flares, long brightening events around periastron due to increased accretion, and short dips due to brief circumstellar obscuration. The rotational modulation appears as a sinusoidal variation with a period of 3.017 days. In our model, this is caused by extended stellar spots 400 K colder than the stellar effective temperature. During our 80 day long monitoring, we detected 40 stellar flares with energies up to 1.2 × 1035 erg and duration of a few hours. The flare profiles closely resemble those in older late-type stars, and their occurrence does not correlate with either the rotational or the orbital period. We observe elevated accretion rates of up to 5 × 10-8 M  yr-1 around each periastron. Our Spitzer data suggest that the increased accretion luminosity temporarily heats up the inner part of the circumbinary disk by about 100 K. We found an inner disk radius of 0.13 au, significantly smaller than expected from dynamical modeling of circumbinary disks. Interestingly, the inner edge of the disk corotates with the binary’s orbit. DQ Tau also shows short dips of <0.1 mag in its light curve, reminiscent of the well-known “dipper phenomenon” observed in many low-mass young stars.