Selected key problems in cool-star astrophysics are reviewed, with emphasis on the importance of new ultraviolet missions to tackle the unresolved issues. UV spectral signatures are an essential probe of critical physical processes related to the production and transport of magnetic energy in astrophysical plasmas ranging, for example, from stellar coronae, to the magnetospheres of magnetars, and the accretion disks of protostars and Active Galactic Nuclei. From an historical point of view, our comprehension of such processes has been closely tied to our understanding of solar/stellar magnetic activity, which has its origins in a poorly understood convection-powered internal magnetic dynamo. The evolution of the Sun's dynamo, and associated magnetic activity, affected the development of planetary atmospheres in the early solar system, and the conditions in which life arose on the primitive Earth. The gradual fading of magnetic activity as the Sun grows old likewise will have profound consequences for the future heliospheric environment. Beyond the Sun, the magnetic activity of stars can influence their close-in companions, and vice versa. Cool star outer atmospheres thus represent an important laboratory in which magnetic activity phenomena can be studied under a wide variety of conditions, allowing us to gain insight into the fundamental processes involved. The UV range is especially useful for such studies because it contains powerful diagnostics extending from warm (similar to 10(4) K) chromospheres out to hot (1-10 MK) coronae, and very high-resolution spectroscopy in the UV has been demonstrated by the GHRS and STIS instruments on HST but has not yet been demonstrated in the higher energy EUV and X-ray bands. A recent example is the use of the hydrogen Ly alpha resonance line-at 110 000 resolution with HST STIS-study, for the first time, coronal winds from cool stars through their interaction with the interstellar gas. These winds cannot be detected from the ground, for lack of suitable diagnostics; or in the X-rays, because the outflowing gas is too thin. A 2m class UV space telescope with high resolution spectroscopy and monitoring capabilities would enable important new discoveries in cool-star astronomy among the stars of the solar neighborhood out to about 150 pc. A larger aperture facility (4-6 m) would reach beyond the 150 pc horizon to fainter objects including young brown dwarfs and pre-main sequence stars in star-forming regions like Orion, and magnetic active stars in distant clusters beyond the Pleiades and alpha Persei. This would be essential, as well, to characterize the outer atmospheres of stars with planets, that will be discovered by future space missions like COROT, Kepler, and Darwin.
|Titolo:||Key problems in cool-star astrophysics|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2006|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|