The influence of binarity on dust obscuration events in the planetary nebula M 2-29 and its analogues

B.Miszalski, J.Mikolajewska, J.Köppen, T.Rauch, A.Acker, M.Cohen, D.J.Frew, A.F.J.Moffat, Q.A.Parker, A.F.Jones, A.Udalski


The central star of the planetary nebula (CSPN) M 2-29 shows an extraordinary R Coronae Borealis-like fading event in its optical lightcurve. The only other CSPN to show these events are CPD-568032 (Hen 3-1333) and V651 Mon (NGC 2346). Dust cloud formation in the line of sight appears responsible but the exact triggering mechanism is not well understood. Understanding how planetary nebulae (PNe) trigger dust obscuration events may help understand the same process in a wide range of objects including Population-I WC9 stars, symbiotic stars and perhaps Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars with long secondary periods (LSPs). A binary scenario involving an eccentric, wide companion that triggers dust formation via interaction at periastron is a potential explanation that has been suggested for LSP variables. Model fits to the lightcurves of CPD-568032 and M 2-29 show the dust forms in excess of 70 AU at the inner edge of a dust disk. In the case of CPD-568032 this radius is far too large to coincide with a binary companion trigger, although a binary may have been responsible for the formation of the dust disk. We find no direct evidence to support previous claims of binarity in M 2-29 either from the OGLE lightcurve or deep medium-resolution VLT FLAMES spectroscopy of the CSPN. We classify the CSPN as Of(H) with T_eff=50+-10 kK and log g=4.0+-0.3. We find a mean distance of 7.4+-1.8 kpc to M 2-29 at which the M_V=-0.9 mag CSPN could potentially hide a subgiant luminosity or fainter companion. A companion would help explain the multiple similarities with D'-type symbiotic stars whose outer nebulae are thought to be bona-fide PNe. The 7.4 kpc distance, oxygen abundance of 8.3 dex and Galactic coordinates (l=4.0, b=-3.0) prove that M 2-29 is a Galactic Bulge PN and not a Halo PN as commonly misconceived.