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20 years of Chandra: stars and planetary systems

posted Oct 12, 2019, 7:33 PM by Jeremy Drake   [ updated Nov 22, 2019, 5:11 AM ]
While working in astrophysics is generally a "jolly good gig", spillover into everyday personal life is pretty much a given, leaving you always paddling around in it to some extent. This year is the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and at the Chandra X-ray Center we decided to write a science e-book to celebrate Chandra's accomplishments. Allocated the "all things stars and planets" chapter, I allotted a solid three weeks to get things together, just before a family summer holiday in Sicily... an utterly foolish underestimate of the actual effort required to assimilate 20 years' worth of results on an incredibly diverse range of astrophysics almost as rich as the Sicilian cuisine that was inevitably to feed it.  And spillover was well past the knees and rising by the time we landed in Catania, and I ended up swimming in it much more than in the Meditteranean. 

Anyway, to quote the abstract...
Beginning with a tour of the X-ray solar system zoo, including the stunning pulsating X-ray aurorae of Jupiter, we then move on to the hot million-degree outer atmospheres of stars like our own Sun, whose X-ray emission is driven by an internal magnetic dynamo. The same emission processes are also vigorously present in the youngest stars, and we highlight some Chandra observations and results on nascent stellar and planetary systems. Chandra surveys and high-resolution spectroscopy of massive stars have provided a new window on the means by which they scavenge X-ray emission from their radiatively-driven winds, sometimes modulating this output by strong underlying stellar magnetic fields. We touch upon the evanescent X-radiation from intermediate-mass stars before arriving at the inevitable evolutionary endpoints of all but massive stars, first in energized X-ray emitting planetary nebulae, then in the slowly cooling, soft-X-ray emitting photospheres of white dwarfs. We conclude with white dwarfs in close binary systems, rejuvenated by interaction with a companion and where accretion gives play to a new range of energetic behavior even more spectacular and cataclysmic than the coruscant astrophysical road down which they have travelled.

The chapter is packaged up into a rather long preprint available here.