Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 August 2011
Magnetic field are ubiquitous to low-mass stars and can potentially impact their evolution and their internal structure; yet the physical processes (called dynamo) that succeed at generating them in the stellar convective zones of cool dwarfs are still enigmatic. Although theoretical modelling and numerical simulations of stellar dynamo action showed breathtaking progress in the last decade, they are not yet in the state of accurately predicting the various magnetic topologies that different low-mass stars can generate.
Thanks to the advent of new-generation instruments, spectropolarimetric observations can now reveal the large-scale magnetic topologies of cool dwarfs, from the brown dwarf threshold (spectral type M8) up to the limit beyond which outer convective zones get vanishingly small (spectral type F5). In particular, they can reconstruct through tomographic methods the poloidal and toroidal components of the large-scale field, hence offering a fresh option for guiding dynamo theories to a more mature state.
We review here the latest observational advances, showing in particular that magnetic topologies of low-mass dwarfs can drastically vary with mass and rotation rate, and discuss their implications for our understanding of dynamo processes.
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