Thursday, January 5, 2017

High surface magnetic field in red giants as a new signature of exoplanet engulfment?


Privitera et al



Red-giant stars may engulf planets. This may increase the rotation rate of their convective envelope, which could lead to strong dynamo-triggered magnetic fields. Aims. We explore the possibility of generating magnetic fields in red giants that have gone through the process of a planet engulfment. We compare them with similar models that evolve without any planets. We discuss the impact of stellar wind magnetic braking on the evolution of the surface velocity of the parent star.


With rotating stellar models with and without planets and an empirical relation between the Rossby number and the surface magnetic field, we deduce the evolution of the surface magnetic field along the red-giant branch. The effects of wind magnetic braking is explored using a relation deduced from MHD simulations.


The stellar evolution model of a 1.7 M⊙ without planet engulfment and that has a time-averaged rotation velocity during the Main-Sequence equal to 100 km s−1, shows a surface magnetic field triggered by convection larger than 10 G only at the base of the red giant branch, that means for gravities log g>3. When a planet engulfment occurs, such magnetic field can also appear at much lower gravities, i.e. at much higher luminosities along the red giant branch. Typically the engulfment of a 15 MJ planet produces a dynamo triggered magnetic field larger than 10 G for gravities between 2.5 and 1.9. We show that for reasonable wind magnetic braking laws, the high surface velocity reached after a planet engulfment may be maintained sufficiently long for being observable.


High surface magnetic fields for red giants in the upper part of the red giant branch is a strong indication of a planet engulfment or of an interaction with a companion. Our theory can be tested by observing fast rotating red giants and check whether they show magnetic fields.

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