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Magnetism, rotation and evolution of Herbig Ae/Be stars


This proposal is to carry out research at Royal Military College in Kingston (Canada), supervised by G. Wade. The return phase will occur at the Laboratory of Space Studies and Instrumentation in Astrophysics (LESIA) at Paris-Meudon Observatory (France), supervised by C. Catala.

The scientific aim is to continue research initiated during my PhD on the magnetic and rotational properties of Herbig Ae/Be (HAeBe) stars. The origin of magnetism in main sequence A and B stars is fundamentally a mystery. The leading hypothesis is that the fields are relics from star formation. A natural consequence of this hypothesis is that some pre-main sequence (PMS) HAeBe stars, as progenitors of main sequence A and B stars, should host strong, ordered magnetic fields.

The presence of magnetic field during the PMS phase will strongly influence stellar evolution, modifying accretion and mass loss, and slowing rotation via magnetic braking. A knowledge of the incidence, strength and structure of magnetic fields of HAeBe stars, characterised by a range of accretion, mass loss and rotation rates, is crucial to our understanding of the earliest phases of their evolution.

It was partly in this context that the spectropolarimeter ESPaDOnS was developed by France, Canada, CFHT and ESA. During the first year of ESPaDOnS activity we achieved the initial phase of this research: we confirmed that some HAeBe stars do host strong, ordered magnetic fields. We must now explore further to understand the implications of this discovery.

The next steps of my project are:
- to better determine HAeBe magnetic characteristics, and to investigate relationships between accretion, mass loss, rotation and magnetism
- to study the influence of age and environment on magnetism and rotation at early stages of evolution, with observations of young clusters and associations.

This will involve spectropolarimetric observations of HAeBe stars using ESPaDOnS at the CFHT and the ESPaDOnS twin, Narval at Pic du Midi

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