The circumstellar environment of EX Lupi: SPHERE and SINFONI views

Context. EX Lup is a well-studied T Tauri star that represents the prototype of young eruptive stars known as EXors. They are characterized by repetitive outbursts that are due to enhanced accretion from the circumstellar disk onto the star. In this paper, we analyze new adaptive optics imaging and spectroscopic observations to study EX Lup and its circumstellar environment in near-infrared in its quiescent phase.
Aims: We aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the circumstellar environment around EX Lup in quiescence, building upon the vast store of data provided by the literature.
Methods: We observed EX Lup in quiescence with the high contrast imager SPHERE/IRDIS in the dual-beam polarimetric imaging mode to resolve the circumstellar environment in near-infrared scattered light. We complemented the data with earlier SINFONI spectroscopy, which was also taken in quiescence.
Results: We resolve, for the first time in scattered light, a compact feature around EX Lup azimuthally extending from ~280° to ~360° and radially extending from ~0.3” to ~0.55” in the plane of the disk. We explore two different scenarios for the detected emission. The first one accounts for the emission as coming from the brightened walls of the cavity excavated by the outflow whose presence was suggested by ALMA observations in the J = 3-2 line of 12CO. The second attributes the emission to an inclined disk. In this latter case, we detect, for the first time, a more extended circumstellar disk in scattered light, which shows that a region between ~10 and ~30 au is depleted of μm-size grains. We compare the J-, H-, and K-band spectra obtained with SINFONI in quiescence with the spectra taken during the outburst, showing that all the emission lines result from the episodic accretion event.
Conclusions: Based on the morphology analysis, we favor the scenario that assumes the scattered light is coming from a circumstellar disk rather than the outflow around EX Lup. We determine the origin of the observed feature as either coming from a continuous circumstellar disk with a cavity, from the illuminated wall of the outer disk, or from a shadowed disk. Moreover, we discuss the potential origins of the depleted region of μm-size grains, exploring the possibility that a sub-stellar companion may be the source of this feature.