Spot evolution on the red giant star XX Triangulum. A starspot-decay analysis based on time-series Doppler imaging [SSA]

Solar spots appear to decay linearly proportional to their size. The decay rate of solar spots is directly related to magnetic diffusivity, which itself is a key quantity for the length of a magnetic-activity cycle. Is a linear spot decay also seen on other stars, and is this in agreement with the large range of solar and stellar activity cycle lengths? We investigate the evolution of starspots on the rapidly-rotating ($P_{\rm rot}$ $\approx$ 24 d) K0 giant XX Tri, using consecutive time-series Doppler images. Our aim is to obtain a well-sampled movie of the stellar surface over many years, and thereby detect and quantify a starspot decay law for further comparison with the Sun. We obtained continuous high-resolution and phase-resolved spectroscopy with the 1.2-m robotic STELLA telescope on Tenerife over six years. For each observing season, we obtained between 5 to 7 independent Doppler images, one per stellar rotation, making up a total of 36 maps. To quantify starspot area decay and growth, we match the observed images with simplified spot models based on a Monte Carlo approach. It is shown that the surface of XX Tri is covered with large high-latitude and even polar spots and with occasional small equatorial spots. Just over the course of six years, we see a systematically changing spot distribution with various timescales and morphology, such as spot fragmentation and spot merging as well as spot decay and formation. An average linear decay of $D$ = $-$0.022 $\pm$ 0.002 SH/day is inferred. We found evidence of an active longitude in phase toward the (unseen) companion star. Furthermore, we detect a weak solar-like differential rotation with a surface shear of $\alpha$ = 0.016 $\pm$ 0.003. From the decay rate, we determine a turbulent diffusivity of $\eta_T$ = (6.3 $\pm$ 0.5) $\times$ 10$^{14}$ cm$^2$/s and predict a magnetic activity cycle of $\approx$ 26 $\pm$ 6 years.

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A. Kunstler, T. Carroll and K. Strassmeier
Fri, 10 Apr 15

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