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Günther, Hans Moritz; Birnstiel, T.; Huenemoerder, D. P.; Principe, D. A.; Schneider, P. C.; Wolk, S. J.; Dubois, Franky; Logie, Ludwig; Rau, Steve; Vanaverbeke, Sigfried (2018): Optical Dimming of RW Aur Associated with an Iron-rich Corona and Exceptionally High Absorbing Column Density. In: Astronomical Journal, Vol. 156, No. 2, 56
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Abstract

RW Aur is a binary system composed of two young, low-mass stars. The primary, RW Aur A, has undergone visual dimming events (Delta V = 2-3 mag) in 2011, 2014-16, and 2017-2018. Visual and IR observations indicate a gray absorber that moved into the line of sight. This dimming is also associated with changes in the outflow. In 2017, when the optical brightness was almost 2 mag below the long-term average, we triggered a Chandra observation to measure the absorbing column density N H and to constrain dust properties and the gas-to-dust ratio of the absorber. In 2017, the X-ray spectrum is more absorbed than it was in the optically bright state (N-H = ( 4 +/- 1) x 10(23) cm(-2)) and shows significantly more hot plasma than in X-ray observations taken before. Furthermore, a new emission feature at 6.63 +/- 0.02 keV (statistic) +/- 0.02 keV (systematic) appeared, indicating an Fe abundance an order of magnitude above solar, in contrast with previous sub-solar Fe abundance measurements. Comparing X-ray absorbing column density N-H and optical extinction A(v), we find that either the gas-to-dust ratio in the absorber is orders of magnitude higher than in the ISM, or the absorber has undergone significant dust evolution. Given the high column density coupled with changes in the X-ray spectral shape, this absorber is probably located in the inner disk. We speculate that a breakup of planetesimals or a terrestrial planet could supply large grains, causing gray absorption;some of these grains would be accreted and enrich the stellar corona with iron, which could explain the inferred high abundance.