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Journal Article

Understanding the Limitations of Gyrochronology for Old Field Stars


Metcalfe,  Travis S.
Department Solar and Stellar Interiors, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Metcalfe, T. S., & Egeland, R. (2019). Understanding the Limitations of Gyrochronology for Old Field Stars. The Astrophysical Journal, 871(1): 39. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aaf575.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-5BA6-9
Nearly half a century has passed since the initial indications that stellar rotation slows while chromospheric activity weakens with a power-law dependence on age, the so-called Skumanich relations. Subsequent characterization of the mass-dependence of this behavior up to the age of the Sun led to the advent of gyrochronology, which uses the rotation rate of a star to infer its age from an empirical calibration. The efficacy of the method relies on predictable angular momentum loss from a stellar wind entrained in the large-scale magnetic field produced by global dynamo action. Recent observational evidence suggests that the global dynamo begins to shut down near the middle of a star's main-sequence lifetime, leading to a disruption in the production of large-scale magnetic field, a dramatic reduction in angular momentum loss, and a breakdown of gyrochronology relations. For solar-type stars this transition appears to occur near the age of the Sun, when rotation becomes too slow to imprint Coriolis forces on the global convective patterns, reducing the shear induced by differential rotation, and disrupting the large-scale dynamo. We use data from Barnes to reveal the signature of this transition in the observations that were originally used to validate gyrochronology. We propose that chromospheric activity may ultimately provide a more reliable age indicator for older stars, and we suggest that asteroseismology can be used to help calibrate activity–age relations for field stars beyond the middle of their main-sequence lifetimes.