Differential rotation of cool active stars: the case of intermediate rotators

P Petit, J-F Donati, Andrew Collier Cameron

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119 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we present a new method for measuring the surface differential rotation of cool stars with rotation periods of a few days, for which the sparse phase coverage achievable from single-site observations generally prevents the use of more conventional techniques. The basic idea underlying this new analysis is to obtain the surface differential rotation pattern that minimizes the information content of the reconstructed Doppler image through a simultaneous fit of all available data.

Simulations demonstrate that the performance of this new method in the case of cool stars is satisfactory for a variety of observing strategies. Differential rotation parameters can be recovered reliably as long as the total data set spans at least 4 per cent of the time for the equator to lap the pole by approximately one complete cycle. We find in particular that these results hold for potentially complex spot distributions (as long as they include a mixture of low- and high-latitude features), and for various stellar inclination angles and rotation velocities. Such measurements can be obtained from either unpolarized or polarized data sets, provided their signal-to-noise ratio is larger than approximately 500 and 5000 per 2 km s(-1) spectral bin, respectively.

This method should therefore be very useful for investigating differential rotation in a much larger sample of objects than what has been possible up to now, and should hence give us the opportunity of studying how differential rotation reacts to various phenomena operating in stellar convective zones, such as tidal effects or dynamo magnetic field generation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-382
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002


  • stars : activity
  • stars : imaging
  • stars : rotation
  • stars : spots


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