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Session 71 - Stellar Activity/Starspots.
Display session, Thursday, June 13
At a distance of 4.3 LY, Proxima Centauri (= Alpha Cen C; V645 Cen) is the nearest known star to the Sun. This M5 V flare star is the faintest member of the Alpha Cen triple star system (or moving group) and lies about 1400 AU nearer to the Earth than its brighter G2 V and K2 V companions. Because of its proximity and its membership in the triple system, Proxima has well determined physical properties that includes an age of 5-6 Gyr. In spite of its old age, Proxima is a chromospherically active star with strong Mg II h+k (280nm) emission as well as being a flare star. This star is of great importance to magnetic dynamo theory because it is expected to have a fully convective envelope. One quantity, not well determined yet vital to understanding Proxima's magnetic behavior, is its rotation period.
During May-August 1995, Proxima was observed about twice a week with the IUE Satellite. Low resolution LWP (200-320nm) spectra were obtained chiefly to observe the chromospheric Mg II emission and use it to measure Proxima's rotation period as active plage regions on the star's surface rotate in and out of view. The IUE data have been analyzed and the Mg II emission shows 20-25% variations with a period of 31.5\pm1.5 days. This period is assumed to be the star's rotation period. In addition, several flare events were observed and evidence was found for rather fast changes (on a time-scale of weeks) in the plage activity and distribution. Also, comparison of the 1995 data with earlier IUE archival data shows that Proxima probably has an activity cycle and that during 1995 it was near a minimum of activity. Nonetheless, 4 flares were detected. We will present the results of the IUE study and also compare the rotation determination with previous attempts such as that of Benedict et al. (1994).
This study is supported from NASA grant NAG 5-2160 and NSF grant AST-9315365, which we gratefully acknowledge.
Program listing for Thursday