Semi-empirical modelling of stellar magnetic activity

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Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union
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Since Galileo, for four hundred years, dark spots have been observed systematically on the surface of the Sun. The monitoring of the sunspot number has shown that their number varies periodically every 11 years. This is the well-known solar activity cycle that is caused by the periodic changes of the magnetic field of the Sun. Not only do spots vary in number on a timescale of a decade, but the total luminosity and other signatures of activity such as flares and coronal mass ejections also increase and decrease with the 11-year cycle. Still unexplained to the present date are periods of decades with almost an absence of activity, where the best known example is the Maunder Minimum. Other stars also exhibit signs of cyclic activity, however the level of activity is usually thousand times higher than the solar one. Obviously, this is due to the difficulty of observing activity at the solar level on most stars. Presently, a method has been developed to detect and study individual solar like spots on the surface of planet-harbouring stars. As the planet eclipses dark patches on the surface of the star, a detectable signature can be observed in the light curve of the star during the transit. The study of a different variety of stars allows for a better understanding of magnetic cycles and the evolution of stars. © 2012 International Astronomical Union.
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