We present a homogeneous analysis of line and continuum emission from simultaneous high-cadence spectra and photometry covering near-ultraviolet and optical wavelengths for 20 M dwarf flares. These data were obtained to study the white-light continuum components at bluer and redder wavelengths than the Balmer jump. Our goals were to break the degeneracy between emission mechanisms that have been fit to broadband colors of flares and to provide constraints for radiative-hydrodynamic (RHD) flare models that seek to reproduce the white-light flare emission. The main results from the analysis are the following: (1) the detection of Balmer continuum (in emission) that is present during all flares and with a wide range of relative contributions to the continuum flux at bluer wavelengths than the Balmer jump; (2) a blue continuum at flare maximum that is linearly decreasing with wavelength from λ = 4000-4800 Å, indicative of hot, blackbody emission with typical temperatures of T BB ~ 9000-14, 000 K (3) a redder continuum apparent at wavelengths longer than Hβ (λ >~ 4900 Å) which becomes relatively more important to the energy budget during the late gradual phase. The hot blackbody component and redder continuum component have been detected in previous studies of flares. However, we have found that although the hot blackbody emission component is relatively well-represented by a featureless, single-temperature Planck function, this component includes absorption features and has a continuum shape strikingly similar to the spectrum of an A-type star as directly observed in our flare spectra. New model constraints are presented for the time evolution among the hydrogen Balmer lines and between Ca II K and the blackbody continuum emission. We calculate Balmer jump flux ratios and compare to the solar-type flare heating predictions from RHD models. The model ratios are too large and the blue-optical (λ = 4000-4800 Å) slopes are too red in both the impulsive and gradual decay phases of all 20 flares. This discrepancy implies that further work is needed to understand the heating at high column mass during dMe flares.Based on observations obtained with the Apache Point Observatory 3.5 m telescope, which is owned and operated by the Astrophysical Research Consortium.
The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series
- Pub Date:
- July 2013
- stars: atmospheres;
- stars: flare;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series