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See detailFormation and evolution of planetary systems: the impact of high-angular resolution optical techniques
Absil, Olivier ULg; Mawet, Dimitri

in Astronomy and Astrophysics Review (2010), 18(3), 317-382

The direct images of giant extrasolar planets recently obtained around several main sequence stars represent a major step in the study of planetary systems. These high-dynamic range images are among the ... [more ▼]

The direct images of giant extrasolar planets recently obtained around several main sequence stars represent a major step in the study of planetary systems. These high-dynamic range images are among the most striking results obtained by the current generation of high-angular resolution instruments which will be superseded by a new generation of instruments in the coming years. It is, therefore, an appropriate time to review the contributions of high-angular resolution visible/infrared techniques to the rapidly growing field of extrasolar planetary science. During the last 20 years, the advent of the Hubble Space Telescope, of adaptive optics on 4- to 10-m class ground-based telescopes, and of long-baseline infrared stellar interferometry, has opened a new viewpoint on the formation and evolution of planetary systems. By spatially resolving the optically thick circumstellar discs of gas and dust where planets are forming, these instruments have considerably improved our models of early circumstellar environments and have thereby provided new constraints on planet formation theories. High-angular resolution techniques are also directly tracing the mechanisms governing the early evolution of planetary embryos and the dispersal of optically thick material around young stars. Finally, mature planetary systems are being studied with an unprecedented accuracy thanks to single-pupil imaging and interferometry, precisely locating dust populations and putting into light a whole new family of long-period giant extrasolar planets. [less ▲]

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See detailHabitability from stars to cells
Javaux, Emmanuelle ULg; Dehant, Véronique

in Astronomy and Astrophysics Review (2010), 18(DOI: 10.1007/s00159-010-0030-4), 1-34

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See detailX-ray spectroscopy of stars
Guedel, Manuel; Nazé, Yaël ULg

in Astronomy and Astrophysics Review (2009), 17

Non-degenerate stars of essentially all spectral classes are soft X-ray sources. Their X-ray spectra have been important in constraining physical processes that heat plasma in stellar environments to ... [more ▼]

Non-degenerate stars of essentially all spectral classes are soft X-ray sources. Their X-ray spectra have been important in constraining physical processes that heat plasma in stellar environments to temperatures exceeding one million degrees. Low-mass stars on the cooler part of the main sequence and their pre-main sequence predecessors define the dominant stellar population in the galaxy by number. Their X-ray spectra are reminiscent, in the broadest sense, of X-ray spectra from the solar corona. The Sun itself as a typical example of a main-sequence cool star has been a pivotal testbed for physical models to be applied to cool stars. X-ray emission from cool stars is indeed ascribed to magnetically trapped hot gas analogous to the solar coronal plasma, although plasma parameters such as temperature, density, and element abundances vary widely. Coronal structure, its thermal stratification and geometric extent can also be interpreted based on various spectral diagnostics. New features have been identified in pre-main sequence stars; some of these may be related to accretion shocks on the stellar surface, fluorescence on circumstellar disks due to X-ray irradiation, or shock heating in stellar outflows. Massive, hot stars clearly dominate the interaction with the galactic interstellar medium: they are the main sources of ionizing radiation, mechanical energy and chemical enrichment in galaxies. High-energy emission permits to probe some of the most important processes at work in these stars, and put constraints on their most peculiar feature: the stellar wind. Medium and high- resolution spectroscopy have shed new light on these objects as well. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of cool and hot stars through the study of X-ray spectra, in particular high-resolution spectra now available from XMM -Newton and Chandra. We address issues related to coronal structure, flares, the composition of coronal plasma, X-ray production in accretion streams and outflows, X-rays from single OB-type stars, massive binaries, magnetic hot objects and evolved WR stars. [less ▲]

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See detailNon-thermal emission processes in massive binaries
De Becker, Michaël ULg

in Astronomy and Astrophysics Review (2007), 14(3-4), 171-216

In this paper, I present a general discussion of several astrophysical processes likely to play a role in the production of non-thermal emission in massive stars, with emphasis on massive binaries. Even ... [more ▼]

In this paper, I present a general discussion of several astrophysical processes likely to play a role in the production of non-thermal emission in massive stars, with emphasis on massive binaries. Even though the discussion will start in the radio domain where the non-thermal emission was first detected, the census of physical processes involved in the non-thermal emission from massive stars shows that many spectral domains are concerned, from the radio to the very high energies. First, the theoretical aspects of the non-thermal emission from early-type stars will be addressed. The main topics that will be discussed are respectively the physics of individual stellar winds and their interaction in binary systems, the acceleration of relativistic electrons, the magnetic field of massive stars, and finally the non-thermal emission processes relevant to the case of massive stars. Second, this general qualitative discussion will be followed by a more quantitative one, devoted to the most probable scenario where non-thermal radio emitters are massive binaries. I will show how several stellar, wind and orbital parameters can be combined in order to make some semi-quantitative predictions on the high-energy counterpart to the non-thermal emission detected in the radio domain. These theoretical considerations will be followed by a census of results obtained so far, and related to this topic. These results concern the radio, the visible, the X-ray and the gamma-ray domains. Prospects for the very high energy gamma-ray emission from massive stars will also be addressed. Two particularly interesting examples-one O-type and one Wolf-Rayet binary-will be considered in details. Finally, strategies for future developments in this field will be discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailGravitational lensing in quasar samples
Claeskens, Jean-François ULg; Surdej, Jean ULg

in Astronomy and Astrophysics Review (2002), 10(4), 263-311

The first cosmic mirage was discovered approximately 20 years ago as the double optical counterpart of a radio source. This phenomenon had been predicted some 70 years earlier as a consequence of General ... [more ▼]

The first cosmic mirage was discovered approximately 20 years ago as the double optical counterpart of a radio source. This phenomenon had been predicted some 70 years earlier as a consequence of General Relativity. We present here a summary of what we have learnt since. The applications are so numerous that we had to concentrate on a few selected aspects of this new field of research. This review is focused on strong gravitational lensing, i.e. the formation of multiple images, in QSO samples. It is intended to give the reader an up-to-date status of the observations and to present an overview of its most interesting potential applications in cosmology and astrophysics, as well as numerous important results achieved so far. The first section follows an intuitive approach to the basics of gravitational lensing and is developed in view of our interest in multiply imaged quasars. The astrophysical and cosmological applications of gravitational lensing are outlined in Sect. 2 and the most important results are presented in Sect. 5. Sections 3 and 4 are devoted to the observations. Finally, conclusions are summarized in the last section. We have tried to avoid duplication with existing (and excellent) introductions to the field of oravitational lensing. For this reason, we did not concentrate on the individual properties of specific lens models, as these are already well presented in Narayan and Bartelmann (1996) and on a more intuitive ground in Refsdal and Surdej (1994). Wambsganss (1998) proposes a broad view on gravitational lensing, in astronomy; the reviews by Fort and Mellier (1994) and Hattori et al. (1999) deal with lensing by galaxy clusters, microlensing in the Galaxy and the local group is reviewed by Paczynski (1996) and a general panorama on weak lensing is given by Bartelmann and Schneider (1999) and Mellier (1999). The monograph on the theory of gravitational lensing by Schneider, Ehlers and Falco (1992) also remains a reference in the field. [less ▲]

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