A deep survey for symbiotic stars in the Magellanic Clouds - 1. Methodology and first discoveries in the SMC
We have initiated a survey aimed at locating a nearly complete sample of classical symbiotic stars (SySt) in the Magellanic Clouds. Such a sample is nearly impossible to obtain in the Milky Way, and is essential to constrain the formation, evolution and demise of these strongly interacting, evolved binary stars. We have imaged both Clouds in Halpha and He II 4686 narrow-band filters deeply enough to detect all known symbiotic stars. While He II 4686 is not present in all SySt, our method should yield a high success rate because the mimics of SySt are not as likely as true symbiotics to show this emission line. We demonstrate the viability of our method through the discovery and characterization of three new SySt in the Small Magellanic Cloud: 2MASS J00411657-7233253, 2MASS J01104404-7208464 and 2MASS J01113745-7159023. Enigmatic variability was observed in 2MASS J01113745-7159023, where changes in the amplitude of its quasi-periodic variability may suggest an enhanced mass transfer rate during a periastron passage on an elliptical orbit. 2MASS J01104404-7208464 is an ellipsoidal variable with an orbital period of 403d.