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Astronomical Journal


Close pre-main-sequence binary stars are expected to clear central holes in their protoplanetary disks, but the extent to which material can flow from the circumbinary disk across the gap onto the individual circumstellar disks has been unclear. In binaries with eccentric orbits, periodic perturbation of the outer disk is predicted to induce mass flow across the gap, resulting in accretion that varies with the binary period. This accretion may manifest itself observationally as periodic changes in luminosity. Here we present a search for such periodic accretion in the pre-main-sequence spectroscopic binary UZ Tau E. We present BVRI photometry spanning 3 years; we find that the brightness of UZ Tau E is clearly periodic, with a best-fit period of 19.16 +/- 0.04 days. This is consistent with the spectroscopic binary period of 19.13 days, refined here from analysis of new and existing radial velocity data. The brightness of UZ Tau E shows significant random variability, but the overall periodic pattern is a broad peak in enhanced brightness, spanning more than half the binary orbital period. The variability of the H alpha line is not as clearly periodic, but given the sparseness of the data, some periodic component is not ruled out. The photometric variations are in good agreement with predictions from simulations of binaries with orbital parameters similar to those of UZ Tau E, suggesting that periodic accretion does occur from circumbinary disks, replenishing the inner circumstellar disks and possibly extending the timescale over which they might form planets.


This work is freely available courtesy of IOP Publishing and the American Astronomical Society.