Author(s): Thomas R. Ayres1
Institution(s): 1. University of Colorado
For more than a decade, Chandra X-ray Observatory has been monitoring the central AB binary (G2V+K1V) of the Centauri triple system with semi-annual pointings, using the High-Resolution Camera. This study has been extended in recent years to the mid-F subgiant, Procyon. The main objective is to follow the coronal (T~1MK) activity variations of the three stars, analogous to the Sun's 11-year sunspot cycle. Tentative periods of 20 yr and 8 yr have been deduced for Cen A and B, respectively; but so far Procyon has shown only a slow, very modest decline in count rate, which could well reflect a slight instrumental degradation rather than intrinsic behavior. The negligible high-energy variability of Procyon sits in stark contrast to the dramatic factor of several to ten changes in the X-ray luminosities of Cen AB and the Sun over their respective cycles. Further, although sunlike Cen A has been observed by successive generations of X-ray observatories for nearly four decades, albeit sporadically, there are key gaps in the coverage that affect the determination of the cycle period. In fact, the most recent pointings suggest a downturn in A's count rate that might be signaling a shorter, more solar-like cycle following a delayed minimum in the 2005--2010 time frame (perhaps an exaggerated version of the extended solar minimum between recent Cycles 23 and 24). Beyond the coronal cycles of the three stars, the sequence of periodic X-ray images represents a unique time-domain history concerning steady as well as variable sources in the two 30'x30' fields. The most conspicuous of the variable objects -- in the Cen field -- will be described here.