Context. Chemically peculiar stars of the mercury-manganese (HgMn) type represent a new class of spotted late-B stars, in which evolving surface chemical inhomogeneities are apparently unrelated to the presence of strong magnetic fields but are produced by some hitherto unknown astrophysical mechanism.
Aims: The goal of this study is to perform a detailed line profile variability analysis and carry out a sensitive magnetic field search for one of the brightest HgMn stars - ensuremathμ Lep.
Methods: We acquired a set of very high-quality intensity and polarization spectra of ensuremathμ Lep with the HARPSpol polarimeter. These data were analyzed with the multiline technique of least-squares deconvolution in order to extract information on the magnetic field and line profile variability.
Results: Our spectra show very weak but definite variability in the lines of Sc, all Fe-peak elements represented in the spectrum of ensuremathμ Lep, as well as Y, Sr, and Hg. Variability might also be present in the lines of Si and Mg. Anomalous profile shapes of Ti ii and Y ii lines suggest a dominant axisymmetric distribution of these elements. At the same time, we found no evidence of the magnetic field in ensuremathμ Lep, with the 3ensuremathσ upper limit of only 3 G for the mean longitudinal magnetic field. This is the most stringent upper limit on the possible magnetic field derived for a spotted HgMn star.
Conclusions: The very weak variability detected for many elements in the spectrum ensuremathμ Lep suggests that low-contrast chemical inhomogeneities may be common in HgMn stars and that they have not been recognized until now due to the limited precision of previous spectroscopic observations and a lack of time-series data. The null result of the magnetic field search reinforces the conclusion that formation of chemical spots in HgMn stars is not magnetically driven.