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Stunted outbursts are ~0.6 eruptions, typically lasting 5-10 days, which are found in some novalike cataclysmic variables, including UU Aqr. The mechanism responsible for stunted outbursts is uncertain but is likely related to an accretion disk instability or to variations in the mass transfer rate. A campaign to monitor the eclipse light curves in UU Aqr has been conducted in order to detect any light curve distortions due to the appearance of a hot spot on the disk at the location of the impact point of the accretion stream. If stunted outbursts are due to a temporary mass transfer enhancement, then predictable deformations of the orbital light curve are expected to occur during such outbursts. This study used 156 eclipses on 135 nights during the years 2000-2012. During this interval, random samples found the system to be in stunted outbursts 4%-5% of the time, yielding ~7 eclipses obtained during some stage of stunted outburst. About half of the eclipses obtained during stunted outbursts showed clear evidence for hot spot enhancement, providing strong evidence that the stunted outbursts in UU Aqr are associated with mass transfer variations. The other half of the eclipses during stunted outburst showed little or no evidence for hot spot enhancement. Furthermore, there were no systematic changes in the hot spot signature as stunted outbursts progressed. Therefore, we have tentatively attributed the changes in hot spot visibility during stunted outburst to random blobby accretion, which likely further modulates the strength of the accretion stream on orbital timescales.







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Astronomical Journal