Magnetic fields of cool active stars

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Magnetic fields are present throughout the universe and are very important for many astrophysical processes. Magnetic field influences a star throughout its life and affects nearby objects such as planets. Stellar magnetic field can be detected by measuring the Zeeman splitting of spectral lines in the intensity spectra (Stokes I) if the field is strong, or by analyzing polarization spectra if the field is weak. Magnetic fields in stars similar to the Sun are ubiquitous but, in general, relatively weak. Until recently these fields were detected through circular polarization (Stokes V) only since linear polarization (Stokes QU) is significantly weaker. The information embedded in different Stokes spectra is used for reconstruction of the surface magnetic field topology with Zeeman Doppler imaging (ZDI) technique. However, cool stars often have complex field geometries and this, combined with a low field strength, partial Stokes parameter observations and the presence of cool spots, makes accurate magnetic mapping difficult. We have performed numerical tests of ZDI to investigate some of the problems of magnetic inversions and ways to overcome them. The most reliable results were found when magnetic field and temperature inhomogeneities were modelled simultaneously and all four Stokes parameters were included in the reconstruction process. We carried out observations of active cool stars in all four Stokes parameters trying to find an object with linear polarization signatures suitable for ZDI. The RS CVn star II Peg was identified as a promising target, showing exceptionally strong linear polarization signatures. We reconstructed the magnetic field in II Peg using full Stokes vector observations for the first time in a cool star. Compared to the magnetic maps recovered from the Stokes IV spectra, the four Stokes parameter results reveal a significantly stronger and more complex surface magnetic field and a more compact stellar magnetosphere. Spectropolarimetric observations and magnetic inversions can also be used to investigate magnetic activity of the young Sun and its implications for the solar system past. To this end, we studied a sample of six stars with parameters very similar to the present Sun, but with ages of only 100-650 Myr. Magnetic field maps of these young solar analogues suggest a significant decrease of the field strength in the age interval 100-250 Myr and a possible change in the magnetic field topology for stars older than about 600 Myr.