On the incidence of episodic accretion in Class I YSOs from VVV

Carlos Contreras Peña, Philip W. Lucas, Zhen Guo, Leigh Smith

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Episodic accretion is one of the competing models to explain the observed luminosity spread in young stellar clusters. These short-lived high accretion events could also have a strong impact on planet formation. Observations of high-amplitude variability in young stellar objects (YSOs) due to large changes in the accretion rate provide direct observational evidence for episodic accretion. However, there are still uncertainties in the frequency of these events and if episodic accretion is universal among YSOs. To determine the frequency of outbursts in Class I YSOs, we built a large and robust sample of objects at this evolutionary stage, and searched for high-amplitude near-infrared (ΔKS > 2 mag) variability in the VIRAC2 database of the Vista Variables in the Via Lactea survey. By complementing with near-IR (2MASS and DENIS) and mid-IR (WISE/Neo-WISE) data, we find that from ∼7000 Class I YSOs, 97 objects can be classified as eruptive variable YSOs. The duration of the outbursts vary from a few months to longer than 9 yr, and cover a similar range of amplitudes. Values of ΔKS > 5 mag, however, are only observed in outbursts with duration longer than 9 yr. When considering different effects of completeness and contamination, we estimate that the incidence of episodic accretion in Class I YSOs is between 2 and 3 per cent. Finally, we determine a recurrence time-scale of long-term outbursts (a.k.a FUors) of kyr. The latter value agrees with previous estimates and is in line with the expectations of higher frequency of FUor outbursts during younger stages of evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberstad3780
Pages (from-to)1823-1840
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Early online date26 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • astro-ph.SR
  • stars: formation
  • stars: protostars
  • stars: pre-main-sequence
  • stars: variables: T Tauri, Herbig Ae/Be


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