, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 127-168

X-ray spectroscopy of stellar coronae

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From the early discovery in 1948 of X-rays from the Solar corona, X-ray spectroscopy has proven to be an invaluable tool in studying hot astrophysical and laboratory plasmas. Because the emission line spectra and continua from optically thin plasmas are fairly well known, high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy has its most obvious application in the measurement of optically thin sources such as the coronae of stars. In particular X-ray observations with theEINSTEIN observatory have demonstrated that soft X-ray emitting coronae are a common feature among stars on the cool side of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, with the probable exception of single very cool giant and supergiant stars and A-type dwarfs. Observations with the spectrometers aboardEINSTEIN andEXOSAT have shown that data of even modest spectral resolution (α/Δα = 10–100) permit the identification of coronal material at different temperatures whose existence may relate to a range of possible magnetic loop structures in the hot outer atmospheres of these stars. The higher spectral resolution of the next generation of spectrometers aboard NASA'sAXAF and ESA'sXMM will allow to fully resolve the coronal temperature structure and to enable velocity diagnostics and the determination of coronal densities, from which the loop geometry (i.e. surface filling factors and loop lengths) can be derived. In this paper various diagnostic techniques are reviewed and the spectral results fromEINSTEIN andEXOSAT are discussed. A number of spectral simulations forAXAF andXMM, especially high-resolution iron K-shell, L-shell, and2s-2p spectra in the wavelength regions around 1.9 Å, 10 Å, and 100 Å, respectively, are shown to demonstrate the capabilities for temperature, density, and velocity diagnostics. Finally, iron K-shell spectra are simulated for various types of detectors such as microcalorimeter, Nb-junction, and CCD.