5 Stellar Coronal Loops

Non-solar X-ray missions since Einstein and European X-ray Observatory SATellite EXOSAT have established that most other stars have a confined corona, often much more active that the solar one. The level of activity is ruled by several factors but, first of all, the age of the star is important: young fast-rotating stars are more active (e.g., Telleschi et al., 2005). The topic of stellar coronal loops deserves a review by itself (e.g., Rosner et al., 1985) and here only a few relevant issues are discussed. A complete and more recent review of stellar coronae, with an extensive part regarding loops, is by Güdel (2004). In the framework of the solar-stellar connection, it is very important the comparison of what we know about the spatially resolved but single solar corona and what about the unresolved but numerous stellar coronae, which offer a variety of different environments. The lack of spatial resolution inhibits to obtain direct information about the size and appearance of the loops, and the general aspect of the corona. We, therefore, have to rely on indirect evidence. One possible approach to get information is to benefit from transient X-ray events, such as flares, which provide estimations of the loop scale length from their dependence on the decay and rise timescales (Reale, 2002a2003, and Section 4.1.2 for reviews). Detailed hydrodynamic modeling can provide even more constraints, for instance, on the heat deposition (e.g., Reale et al., 1988Jump To The Next Citation Point2004). The study of stellar X-ray flares allowed, for instance, to constrain that most stellar flares involve plasma confined in closed structures (Reale et al., 2002), and to infer the presence both of loops with size similar to those observed on the Sun (e.g., Reale et al., 1988) and of giant loops (Favata et al., 2005Getman et al., 2008), with length exceeding the stellar radius.

Another approach is to use the entire solar X-ray corona as a template and “Rosetta stone” to interpret stellar coronae. A detailed implementation of this approach was devised and applied extensively using Yohkoh data over its entire life, which covers a whole solar cycle (Orlando et al., 2000Peres et al., 2000). It was shown that the solar corona indeed provides a pattern of components, i.e., quiet structures, active regions, active region cores, flares, which can be identified in stellar coronal data and which can explain stellar activity giving different weights to the components (Orlando et al., 2001Peres et al., 2004Jump To The Next Citation Point). The method was also applied to describe stellar coronae in terms of loop populations and to extract general information and constraints on coronal heating (Peres et al., 2004). It was applied to flares (Reale et al., 2001) and to describe the evolution of active regions (Orlando et al., 2004). More recently it was shown that a continuous unresolved flaring activity may explain the most active coronae, but also that the coronal heating appears to follow different scaling for quiet regions and for active and flaring regions across the cycle (Argiroffi et al., 2008).

Cargill and Klimchuk (2006) realized that the strong hot peaks in the emission measure-temperature distributions in the coronae of some binary stars (Sanz-Forcada et al., 2003) are similar to those expected for an impulsively-heated solar corona. A coronal model comprised of many impulsively heated strands shows that the evidence may be compatible with coronae made of many very small loops (length under 103 km) heated by microflares.

The recent deeper investigation of solar coronal heating mechanisms through the evidence of hot plasma and of variability makes even more important future tighter links to the study of stellar coronae, which show very strong evidence of very hot steady components (e.g., Schmitt et al., 1990Scelsi et al., 2005).

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