Large-scale magnetic topologies of early M dwarfs

J. F. Donati, J. Morin, P. Petit, X. Delfosse, T. Forveille, M. Aurière, R. Cabanac, B. Dintrans, R. Fares, T. Gastine, M. M. Jardine, F. Lignières, F. Paletou, J. C.Ramirez Velez, S. Théado

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226 Citations (Scopus)


We present here additional results of a spectropolarimetric survey of a small sample of stars ranging from spectral type M0 to M8 aimed at investigating observationally how dynamo processes operate in stars on both sides of the full convection threshold (spectral type M4). The present paper focuses on early M stars (M0-M3), that is above the full convection threshold. Applying tomographic imaging techniques to time series of rotationally modulated circularly polarized profiles collected with the NARVAL spectropolarimeter, we determine the rotation period and reconstruct the large-scale magnetic topologies of six early M dwarfs. We find that early-M stars preferentially host large-scale fields with dominantly toroidal and non-axisymmetric poloidal configurations, along with significant differential rotation (and long-term variability); only the lowest-mass star of our subsample is found to host an almost fully poloidal, mainly axisymmetric large-scale field resembling those found in mid-M dwarfs. This abrupt change in the large-scale magnetic topologies of M dwarfs (occurring at spectral type M3) has no related signature on X-ray luminosities (measuring the total amount of magnetic flux); it thus suggests that underlying dynamo processes become more efficient at producing large-scale fields (despite producing the same flux) at spectral types later than M3. We suspect that this change relates to the rapid decrease in the radiative cores of low-mass stars and to the simultaneous sharp increase of the convective turnover times (with decreasing stellar mass) that models predict to occur at M3; it may also be (at least partly) responsible for the reduced magnetic braking reported for fully convective stars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-560
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Stars: activity
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs
  • Stars: magnetic fields
  • Stars: rotation
  • Techniques: polarimetric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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