Monday, January 5, 2015

The Near UV Light Bath of Exoplanets Around Young M Dwarf Host Stars



Andsell et al


Planets orbiting within the close-in habitable zones of M dwarf stars will be exposed to elevated high-energy radiation driven by strong magnetohydrodynamic dynamos during stellar youth. Near-ultraviolet (NUV) irradiation can erode and alter the chemistry of planetary atmospheres, and a quantitative description of the evolution of NUV emission from M dwarfs is needed when modeling these effects. We investigated the NUV luminosity evolution of early M-type dwarfs by cross-correlating the Lépine & Gaidos catalog of bright M dwarfs with the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) catalog of NUV (1771-2831 Å) sources. Of the 4805 sources with GALEX counterparts, 797 have NUV emission significantly (>2.5σ) in excess of an empirical basal level. We inspected these candidate active stars using visible-wavelength spectra, high-resolution adaptive optics imaging, time-series photometry, and literature searches to identify cases where the elevated NUV emission is due to unresolved background sources or stellar companions; we estimated the overall occurrence of these "false positives" (FPs) as ~16%. We constructed an NUV luminosity function that accounted for FPs, detection biases of the source catalogs, and GALEX upper limits. We found the NUV luminosity function to be inconsistent with predictions from a constant star-formation rate and simplified age-activity relation defined by a two-parameter power law.

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