Flare-like brightenings, similar to those observed on the Sun but on a larger energy scale, are observed in a variety of late-type stars, including classical M dwarf flare stars, RS CVn-type binaries and pre-main sequence (PMS) objects. These events, which are observable over the whole electromagnetic spectrum, are interpreted as due to rapid release of magnetic energy at the star surface. Comprehensive reviews of stellar flares have been presented by Haisch &: Rodonò (1989), Pettersen (1991), Haisch et al. (1991), Pallavicini (1992a), as well as in contributions at this conference. Here I will discuss X-ray emission, with emphasis on flares on M dwarfs and RS CVn binaries.
X-ray observations are important because they provide information on the high-temperature coronal portion of the flare and, at least in principle, could give clues as to the primary energy release and particle acceleration. In the stellar case there are severe limitations of the diagnostic capabilities of X-ray observations, in comparison to the solar case. In fact, stellar flares have up to now been observed only at soft X-ray energies (≤ 10 keV) where thermal processes greatly dominate over non-thermal ones (optical continuum observations have to be used in this case as a proxy for hard X-rays). Moreover, stellar X-ray observations are spatially unresolved and so far of poor spectral resolution. Thus, the observational data that are readily accessible are only light curves, average temperatures T and volume integrated emission measures EM = ∫ n2dV, but there is no direct information on parameters such as density, volume and detailed geometry.