Periodic brightening of Kepler light curves: investigating the possibility of forward scattering due to dust clouds
Dedicated transiting surveys, such as the Kepler space telescope, have provided the astronomy community with a rich data set resulting in many new discoveries. In this paper, we look at eight Kepler objects identified by Wheeler & Kipping with a periodic, broad increase in flux, that look distinctly different from intrinsic star variability. We consider two physical phenomena as explanations for these observed Kepler light curves; the first being the classical explanation while the second being an alternative scenario: (i) tidal interactions in a binary star system, and (ii) forward scattering from an optically thin cloud around an exoplanet. We investigate the likelihood of each model by modelling and fitting to the observed data. The binary system qualitatively does a good job of reproducing the shape of the observed light curves due to the tidal interaction of the two stars. We do, however, see a mismatch in flux right before or after the peak brightness. We find that six out of the eight systems require an F-type primary star with a K-type companion with large eccentricities. At the same time, we find that optically thin discs, modelled using a Henyey-Greenstein phase function are also able to generate these broad brightening events. Five of the eight observed objects can be described with this new hypothesis in the absence of RV observations. As the other three are not well-described by the disc model, we conclude that they are indeed heartbeat stars.