Letter to the Editor
Detection of a weak surface magnetic field on Sirius A: are all tepid stars magnetic?⋆
P. Petit1,2, F. Lignières1,2, M. Aurière1,2, G. A. Wade3, D. Alina1,2, J. Ballot1,2, T. Böhm1,2, L. Jouve1,2, A. Oza1,2, F. Paletou1,2 and S. Théado1,2
Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, Toulouse, France
2 CNRS, Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, 14 Avenue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
3 Department of Physics, Royal Military College of Canada, PO Box 17000, Station Forces, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Received: 27 June 2011
Accepted: 9 July 2011
Aims. We aim at a highly sensitive search for weak magnetic fields in main sequence stars of intermediate mass, by scanning classes of stars with no previously reported magnetic members. After detecting a weak magnetic field on the normal, rapidly rotating A-type star Vega, we concentrate here on the bright star Sirius A, taken as a prototypical, chemically peculiar, moderately rotating Am star.
Methods. We employed the NARVAL and ESPaDOnS high-resolution spectropolarimeters to collect 442 circularly polarized spectra, complemented by 60 linearly polarized spectra. Using a list of about 1100 photospheric spectral lines, we computed a cross correlation line profile from every spectrum, leading to a signal-to-noise ratio of up to 30 000 in the polarized profile.
Results. We report the repeated detection of circularly polarized, highly asymmetric signatures in the line profiles, interpreted as Zeeman signatures of a large-scale photospheric magnetic field, with a line-of-sight component equal to 0.2 ± 0.1 G.
Conclusions. This is the first polarimetric detection of a surface magnetic field on an Am star. Using rough estimates of the physical properties of the upper layers of Sirius A, we suggest that a dynamo operating in the shallow convective envelope cannot account for the field strength reported here. Together with the magnetic field of Vega, this result confirms that a new class of magnetic objects exists among non Ap/Bp intermediate-mass stars, and it may indicate that a significant fraction of tepid stars are magnetic.
Key words: stars: atmospheres / stars: magnetic field / stars: rotation / stars: individual: Sirius A
Based on observations obtained at the Bernard Lyot Telescope (TBL, Pic du Midi, France) of the Midi-Pyrénées Observatory, which is operated by the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique of France, and at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) which is operated by the National Research Council of Canada, the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique of France, and the University of Hawaii.
© ESO, 2011