Space Science Reviews

, Volume 191, Issue 1–4, pp 27–76 | Cite as

Observations of Strong Magnetic Fields in Nondegenerate Stars

  • Jeffrey L. Linsky
  • Markus Schöller


We review magnetic-field measurements of nondegenerate stars across the Hertzprung–Russell diagram for main sequence, premain sequence, and postmain sequence stars. For stars with complex magnetic-field morphologies, which includes all G–M main sequence stars, the analysis of spectra obtained in polarized vs unpolarized light provides very different magnetic measurements because of the presence or absence of cancellation by oppositely directed magnetic fields within the instrument’s spatial resolution. This cancellation can be severe, as indicated by the spatially averaged magnetic field of the Sun viewed as a star. These averaged fields are smaller by a factor of 1000 or more compared to spatially resolved magnetic-field strengths. We explain magnetic-field terms that characterize the fields obtained with different measurement techniques. Magnetic fields typically control the structure of stellar atmospheres in and above the photosphere, the heating rates of stellar chromospheres and coronae, mass and angular momentum loss through stellar winds, chemical peculiarity, and the emission of high energy photons, which is critically important for the evolution of protoplanetary disks and the habitability of exoplanets. Since these effects are governed by the star’s magnetic energy, which is proportional to the magnetic-field strength squared and its fractional surface coverage, it is important to measure or reliably infer the true magnetic-field strength and filling factor across a stellar disk. We summarize magnetic-field measurements obtained with the different observing techniques for different types of stars and estimate the highest magnetic-field strengths. We also comment on the different field morphologies observed for stars across the H–R diagram, typically inferred from Zeeman-Doppler imaging and rotational modulation observations,


Magnetic fields Pre-main sequence stars Main sequence stars Post-main sequence stars 

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations


Broad-band linear polarization


B fields in OB stars consortium


Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope


Chemically preculiar A- and B-type stars


CRyogenic high-resolution InfraRed Echelle Spectrograph


Doppler imaging


European Southern Observatory


a high-resolution spectrograph on the CFHT telescope


Fiber-fed Extended Range Optical Spectrograph


FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph


New version of FORS1


Far ultraviolet (912–1700 Å)


Guaranteed time observer


High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher


HARPS with polarizing optics


Solar-B satellite


Components of the Stokes polarimetry vector


Local thermodynamic equilibrium


Least-squares deconvolution


Michelson Doppler imager




Magnetism in Massive Stars collaboration


Microvariability and Oscillations of STars satellite


Near Infrared Magnetograph


National Solar Observatory


Red giant branch stars


Spectroscopic binary stars


An optical high-resolution spectrograph on the Nordic Optical Telescope


Solar and Heliospheric Observatory


Solar Optical Telescope


SOT Spectropolarimeter


Slowly pulsating B-type stars


Singular value decomposition method for Stokes profile reconstruction


Ultraviolet (912–3000 Å)


Very Large Telescope


Zero-age main sequence


Zeeman Doppler imaging



We thank the referee for a careful reading of the manuscript and many useful suggestions. We thank the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) for their hospitality and the convenors of the ISSI workshop “The Strongest Magnetic Fields in the Universe” for organizing a stimulating workshop. JLL thanks the Space Telescope Science Institute for support of grants GO-12464 and GO-11616 to observe and analyze spectra of exoplanet host stars and premain sequence stars.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.JILA/University of Colorado and NISTBoulderUSA
  2. 2.European Southern ObservatoryGarchingGermany

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