Spectropolarimetry of R Coronae Borealis in 1998--2003: Discovery of Transient Polarization at Maximum Brightness

Kawabata, K. S.
Ikeda, Y.
Akitaya, H.
Isogai, M.
Matsuda, K.
Matsumura, M.
Nagae, O.
Seki, M.
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We present an extended optical spectropolarimetry of R CrB from 1998 January to 2003 September. The polarization was almost constant in the phase of maximum brightness, being consistent with past observations. We detected, however, temporal changes of polarization ($\sim 0.5$ %) in 2001 March and August, which were the first detection of large polarization variability in R CrB near maximum brightness. The amplitude and the position angle of the `transient polarization' were almost constant with wavelength in both two events. There was a difference by about 20 degrees in the position angle between the two events. Each event could be explained by light scattering due to short-lived dust puff occasionally ejected off the line of sight. The flatness of the polarization against the wavelength suggests that the scatterer is a mixture of dust grains having various sizes. The rapid growth and fading of the transient polarization favors the phenomenological model of dust formation near the stellar photosphere (e.g., within two stellar radii) proposed for the time evolution of brightness and chromospheric emission lines during deeply declining periods, although the fading timescale can hardly be explained by a simple dispersal of expanding dust puff with a velocity of $\sim 200-350$ km s $^{-1}$. Higher expansion velocity or some mechanism to destroy the dust grains should be needed.
Comment: 22 pages, 10 figures, accepted for publication in AJ