Detection of a weak surface magnetic field on Sirius A: Are all tepid stars magnetic?

Astronomy and Astrophysics (Impact Factor: 4.38). 06/2011; 532. DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201117573
Source: arXiv


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. 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 1,100 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. 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 $0.2 \pm 0.1$ G. 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.

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    ABSTRACT: We present the result of a highly sensitive spectropolarimetric study dedicated to intermediate mass stars. We report the detection of sub-gauss surface magnetic fields on the normal, rapidly-rotating A-type star Vega and on the moderately-rotating Am star Sirius A. These magnetic detections constitute the first evidence that tepid stars that do not belong to the class of Ap/Bp stars can also host magnetized photospheres, suggesting that a significant fraction of stars in this mass regime are magnetic. We present here the observational clues gathered so far to progress towards understanding the physical processes at the origin of this newly identified Vega-like magnetism.
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