Letter to the Editor
Impact of granulation effects on the use of Balmer lines as temperature indicators*
CIFIST Marie Curie Excellence Team, France
2 GEPI, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France
3 Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
4 Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste, via Tiepolo 11, 34143 Trieste, Italy
Accepted: 19 May 2009
Context. Balmer lines serve as important indicators of stellar effective temperatures in late-type stellar spectra. One of their modelling uncertainties is the influence of convective flows on their shape.
Aims. We aim to characterize the influence of convection on the wings of Balmer lines.
Methods. We perform a differential comparison of synthetic Balmer line profiles obtained from 3D hydrodynamical model atmospheres and 1D hydrostatic standard ones. The model parameters are appropriate for F, G, K dwarf and subgiant stars of metallicity ranging from solar to 10-3 solar.
Results. The shape of the Balmer lines predicted by 3D models can never be exactly reproduced by a 1D model, irrespective of its effective temperature. We introduce the concept of a 3D temperature correction, as the effective temperature difference between a 3D model and a 1D model which provides the closest match to the 3D profile. The temperature correction is different for the different members of the Balmer series and depends on the adopted mixing-length parameter in the 1D model. Among the investigated models, the 3D correction ranges from -300 K to +300 K. Horizontal temperature fluctuations tend to reduce the 3D correction.
Conclusions. Accurate effective temperatures cannot be derived from the wings of Balmer lines, unless the effects of convection are properly accounted for. The 3D models offer a physically well justified way of doing so. The use of 1D models treating convection with the mixing-length theory do not appear to be suitable for this purpose. In particular, there are indications that it is not possible to determine a single value of which will optimally reproduce the Balmer lines for any choice of atmospheric parameters. The investigation of a more extended grid and direct comparison with observed Balmer profiles will be carried out in the near future.
Key words: hydrodynamics / convection / radiative transfer / stars: atmospheres / line: profiles / methods: numerical
© ESO, 2009