Magnetic spots on hot massive stars
M. Cantiello1,2 and J. Braithwaite1
Argelander-Institut für Astronomie der Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany
2 Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Kohn Hall, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
Received: 17 June 2011
Accepted: 14 September 2011
Context. Hot luminous stars show a variety of phenomena in their photospheres and winds which still lack clear physical explanation. Among these phenomena are photospheric turbulence, line profile variability (LPV), non-thermal emission, non-radial pulsations, discrete absorption components (DACs) and wind clumping. It has been argued that a convection zone close to the stellar surface could be responsible for some of these phenomena. This convective zone is caused by a peak in the opacity associated with iron-group elements and is referred to as the “iron convection zone” (FeCZ).
Aims. Assuming dynamo action producing magnetic fields at equipartition in the FeCZ, we investigate the occurrence of subsurface magnetism in OB stars. Then we study the surface emergence of these magnetic fields and discuss possible observational signatures of magnetic spots.
Methods. Simple estimates are made using the subsurface properties of massive stars, as calculated in 1D stellar evolution models.
Results. We find that magnetic fields of sufficient amplitude to affect the wind could emerge at the surface via magnetic buoyancy. While at this stage it is difficult to predict the geometry of these features, we show that magnetic spots of size comparable to the local pressure scale height can manifest themselves as hot, bright spots.
Conclusions. Localized magnetic fields could be widespread in those early type stars that have subsurface convection. This type of surface magnetism could be responsible for photometric variability and play a role in X-ray emission and wind clumping.
Key words: dynamo / stars: activity / stars: massive / stars: atmospheres / stars: magnetic field / convection
© ESO, 2011