Author(s): , , ,
Institution(s): 1. University College London, 2. University of Heidelberg, 3. University of Padua
Convection is one of the fundamental mechanism to transport energy, e.g., in planetology, oceanography as well as in astrophysics where stellar structure customarily described by the mixing-length theory, which makes use of the mixing-length scale parameter to express the convective flux, velocity, and temperature gradients of the convective elements and stellar medium. The mixing-length scale is taken to be proportional to the local pressure scale height of the star, and the proportionality factor (the mixing-length parameter) must be determined by comparing the stellar models to some calibrator, usually the Sun.
No strong arguments exist to claim that the mixing-length parameter is the same in all stars and all evolutionary phases. Because of this, all stellar models in literature are hampered by this basic uncertainty.
In a recent paper (Pasetto et al 2014) we presented the first fully analytical scale-free theory of convection that does not require the mixing-length parameter. Our self-consistent analytical formulation of convection determines all the properties of convection as a function of the physical behaviour of the convective elements themselves and the surrounding medium (being it a either a star, an ocean, a primordial planet). The new theory of convection is formulated starting from a conventional solution of the Navier-Stokes/Euler equations, i.e. the Bernoulli equation for a perfect fluid, but expressed in a non-inertial reference frame co-moving with the convective elements. In our formalism, the motion of convective cells inside convective-unstable layers is fully determined by a new system of equations for convection in a non-local and time dependent formalism.
We obtained an analytical, non-local, time-dependent solution for the convective energy transport that does not depend on any free parameter. The predictions of the new theory in astrophysical environment are compared with those from the standard mixing-length paradigm in stars with exceptional results for atmosphere models of the Sun and all the stars in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.