, Volume 12, Issue 2-3, pp 71-237

X-ray astronomy of stellar coronae

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X-ray emission from stars in the cool half of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is generally attributed to the presence of a magnetic corona that contains plasma at temperatures exceeding 1 million K. Coronae are ubiquitous among these stars, yet many fundamental mechanisms operating in their magnetic fields still elude an interpretation through a detailed physical description. Stellar X-ray astronomy is therefore contributing toward a deeper understanding of the generation of magnetic fields in magnetohydrodynamic dynamos, the release of energy in tenuous astrophysical plasmas through various plasma-physical processes, and the interactions of high-energy radiation with the stellar environment. Stellar X-ray emission also provides important diagnostics to study the structure and evolution of stellar magnetic fields from the first days of a protostellar life to the latest stages of stellar evolution among giants and supergiants. The discipline of stellar coronal X-ray astronomy has now reached a level of sophistication that makes tests of advanced theories in stellar physics possible. This development is based on the rapidly advancing instrumental possibilities that today allow us to obtain images with sub-arcsecond resolution and spectra with resolving powers exceeding 1000. High-resolution X-ray spectroscopy has, in fact, opened new windows into astrophysical sources, and has played a fundamental role in coronal research.

The present article reviews the development and current status of various topics in the X-ray astronomy of stellar coronae, focusing on observational results and on theoretical aspects relevant to our understanding of coronal magnetic structure and evolution.

Received: 27 February 2004, Published online: 25 August 2004
This article is dedicated to the late Rolf Mewe, a prominent astrophysicist who contributed major work to the field of stellar X-ray astronomy and spectroscopy. He died on May 4, 2004.
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)