From convective stellar dynamo simulations to Zeeman-Doppler images

T. Hackman, O. Kochukhov, M. Viviani, J. Warnecke, M. J. Korpi-Lagg, J. J. Lehtinen

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Context. Zeeman-Doppler imaging (ZDI) is used to reconstruct the surface magnetic field of late-type stars from high-resolution spectropolarimetric observations. The results are usually described in terms of characteristics of the field topology, such as poloidality versus toroidality and axisymmetry versus non-axisymmetry, in addition to the field strength. Aims. In this study, we want to test how well these characteristics are preserved when applying the ZDI method to simulated data. We are particularly interested in how accurately the field topology is preserved and to what extent stellar parameters, such as projected rotation velocity and rotation axis inclination, influence the reconstruction. Methods. For these tests, we used published magnetic field vector data from direct numerical magnetohydrodynamic simulations taken near the surface of the simulation domain. These simulations have variable rotation rates and therefore represent different levels of activity of an otherwise Sun-like setup with a convective envelope of solar thickness. Our ZDI reconstruction is based on spherical harmonics expansion. By comparing the original values to those of the reconstructed images, we study the ability to reconstruct the surface magnetic field in terms of various characteristics of the field. Results. In general, the ZDI method works as expected. The main large-scale features are reasonably well recovered, but the strength of the recovered magnetic field is just a fraction of the original input. The quality of the reconstruction shows clear correlations with the data quality. Furthermore, there are some spurious dependencies between stellar parameters and the characteristics of the field. Conclusions. Our study uncovers some limits of ZDI. Firstly, the recovered field strength will generally be lower than the ‘real’ value, as smaller structures with opposite polarities will be blurred in the inversion. This is also seen in the relative distribution of magnetic energy in terms of the angular degree `. Secondly, the axisymmetry is overestimated. The poloidality versus toroidality is better recovered. The reconstruction works better for a stronger field and faster rotation velocity. Still, the ZDI method works surprisingly well even for a weaker field and slow rotation provided the data have a high signal-to-noise ratio and good rotation phase coverage.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA156
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • dynamo
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • methods: numerical
  • stars: imaging
  • stars: magnetic field


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