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Sigma Xi Student Research Showcase

are low-mass, active stars tricking us into observing superflaring g dwarfs?

Presenter Information

Observing at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope on Maunakea, Hawai'i.

Name: Jessica Schonhut-Stasik

Current Education Status: Graduate Student

Institution Name: Vanderbilt University

Field of Study: Astrophysics

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ABSTRACT

Understanding Kepler's Superflaring G Dwarfs: Investigating Whether Superflaring Behavior can be Attributed to Unseen, Low-Mass, Companions

Hypothesis: We predict that superflaring G dwarfs discovered in Kepler data are due to contaminated lightcurves containing undiscovered secondary stars hidden in the data. These secondary stars are likely of a spectral type that is more active and is known to superflare routinely, such as M dwarfs. 

The Big Picture: Increasing our understanding of the origin of G dwarf superflares is vital to our knowledge of the Sun (a G2V star). Suppose the Sun was able to erupt with the energy of a superflare. In that case, there could be potentially devastating consequences for Earth, such as destruction of our communication and electrical systems or physical risk to astronauts on the International Space Station. 

Methods: This study contains two parts, a recreation of the data with modeled low-mass superflaring companions to predict possible lightcurve contamination, and a survey section that analyzes archival data of the original sample in search for hidden, active companions. 

Preliminary Results: The preliminary results of this work suggest that contaminating low-mass companions are responsible for up to 70% of the superflares observed. Our survey data corroborates this, finding low-mass companions to 68% of the G dwarfs in the sample. Furthermore, through the re-examination of stellar parameters, we have found that many stars originally classified as G dwarfs are other stellar types, or they rotate much faster than the Sun. A higher rate of rotation could increase the star's activity, making it more likely to superflare (not something we would expect from the Sun).

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