Violent environment of the inner disk of RW Aurigae A probed by the 2010 and 2015 dimming events

22 May 2018

RW Aur is a young binary system showing strong signatures of a recent tidal encounter between the circumprimary disk and the secondary star. The primary star has recently undergone two major dimming events ($\Delta$mag $\approx$ 2 in V-band), whose origin is still under debate. To shed light on the mechanism leading to the dimming events, we study the extinction properties, accretion variability, and gas kinematics using absorption lines from the material obscuring star RW Aur A. We compare our moderate resolution X-Shooter spectra of the dim state of RW Aur A with other spectral observations. In particular, we analyse archival high resolution UVES spectra obtained during the bright state of the system, in order to track the evolution of the spectral properties across the second dimming event. The spectrum obtained during the dim state shows narrow absorption lines in the Na and K optical doublets, where the former is saturated. With a velocity of -60 km/s these lines indicate that during the dim state the disk wind is either enhanced, or significantly displaced into the line of sight. The photometric evolution across the dimming event shows a gray extinction, and is correlated with a significant reduction of the EW of all photospheric lines. Emission lines tracing accretion do not vary significantly across the dimming. We conclude that the dimming event is related to a major perturbation on the inner disk. We suggest that the inner disk is occulting (most of) the star, and thus its photosphere, but is not occulting the accretion regions within a few stellar radii. Since observations of the outer disk indicate that the disk is modestly inclined (45 - 60 deg), we propose that the inner disk might be warped by a yet unseen (sub-)stellar companion, which may also explain the 2.77 day periodic variability of the spectral lines.