The 2016 outburst of the unique symbiotic star MWC 560 (= V694 Mon), its long-term BVRI evolution and a marked 331 days periodicity
After 26 years from the major event of 1990, in early 2016 the puzzling symbiotic binary MWC 560 has gone into a new and even brighter outburst. We present our tight BVRCIC photometric monitoring of MWC 560 (451 independent runs distributed over 357 different nights), covering the 2005-2016 interval, and the current outburst in particoular. A stricking feature of the 2016 outburst has been the suppression of the short term chaotic variability during the rise toward maximum brightness, and its dominance afterward with an amplitude in excess of 0.5 mag. Similar to the 1990 event when the object remained around maximum brightness for ∼6 months, at the time Solar conjunction prevented further observations of the current outburst, MWC 560 was still around maximum, three months past reaching it. We place our observations into a long term contex by combining with literature data to provide a complete 1928-2016 lightcurve. Some strong periodicities are found to modulate the optical photometry of MWC 560. A period of 1860 days regulate the occourence of bright phases at BVRC bands (with exactly 5.0 cycles separating the 1990 and 2016 outbursts), while the peak brightness attained during bright phases seems to vary with a ∼9570 days cycle. A clean 331 day periodicity modulate the IC lightcurve, where the emission from the M giant dominates, with a lightcurve strongly reminiscent of an ellipsoidal distortion plus irradiation from the hot companion. Pros and cons of 1860 and 331 days as the system orbital period are reviewed, waiting for a spectroscopic radial velocity orbit of the M giant to settle the question (provided the orbit is not oriented face-on).