Context. The majority of magnetic chemically peculiar (mCP) stars exhibit periodic light, radio, spectroscopic and spectropolarimetric variations that can be adequately explained by the model of a rigidly rotating main-sequence star with persistent surface structures. CU Vir and V901 Ori belong among these few mCP stars whose rotation periods vary on timescales of decades.
Aims. We aim to study the stability of the periods in CU Vir and V901 Ori using all accessible observational data containing phase information.
Methods. We collected all available relevant archived observations supplemented with our new measurements of these stars and analysed the period variations of the stars using a novel method that allows for the combination of data of diverse sorts.
Results. We found that the shapes of their phase curves were constant during the last several decades, while the periods were changing. At the same time, both stars exhibit alternating intervals of rotational braking and acceleration. The rotation period of CU Vir was gradually shortening until the year 1968, when it reached its local minimum of 0.52067198 d. The period then started increasing, reaching its local maximum of 0.5207163 d in the year 2005. Since that time the rotation has begun to accelerate again. We also found much smaller period changes in CU Vir on a timescale of several years. The rotation period of V901 Ori was increasing for the past quarter-century, reaching a maximum of 1.538771 d in the year 2003, when the rotation period began to decrease.
Conclusions. We propose that dynamical interactions between a thin, outer magnetically-confined envelope, braked by the stellar wind, with an inner, faster rotating stellar body is able to explain the observed rotational variability. A theoretically unexpected alternating variability of rotation periods in these stars would remove the spin-down time paradox and brings a new insight into structure and evolution of magnetic upper-main-sequence stars.
Surprising variations in the rotation of the chemically peculiar stars CU Virginis and V901 Orionis Z. Mikulášek, J. Krtička, G. W. Henry, J. Janík, J. Zverko, J. Žižňovský, M. Zejda, J. Liška, P. Zvěřina, D. O. Kudrjavtsev, I. I. Romanyuk, N. A. Sokolov, T. Lüftinger, C. Trigilio, C. Neiner and S. N. de Villiers A&A, 534 (2011) L5 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201117784