Search for stellar spots in field blue horizontal-branch stars
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Blue horizontal-branch stars are Population II objects which are burning helium in their core and possess a hydrogen-burning shell and radiative envelope. Because of their low rotational velocities, diffusion has been predicted to work in their atmospheres. In many respects, blue horizontal-branch stars closely resemble the magnetic chemically peculiar stars of the upper main sequence, which show photometric variability caused by abundance spots on their surfaces. These spots are thought to be
... aused by diffusion and the presence of a stable magnetic field. However, the latter does not seem to be axiomatic. We searched for rotationally induced variability in 30 well-established bright field blue horizontal-branch stars in the solar neighbourhood and searched the literature for magnetic fields measurements of our targets. We employed archival photometric time series data from the ASAS, ASAS-SN, and SuperWASP surveys. The data were carefully reduced and processed, and a time series analysis was applied using several different techniques. We also synthesized existing photometric and spectroscopic data of magnetic chemically peculiar stars in order to study possible different surface characteristics producing lower amplitudes. In the accuracy limit of the employed data, no significant variability signals were found in our sample stars. The resulting upper limits for variability are given. We conclude that either no stellar surface spots are present in field blue horizontal-branch stars, or their characteristics (contrast, total area, and involved elements) are not sufficient to produce amplitudes larger than a few millimagnitudes in the optical wavelength region. New detailed models taking into account the elemental abundance pattern of blue horizontal-branch stars are needed to synthesize light curves for a comparison with our results.