Friday, February 20, 2015

Multi-epoch Monitoring of Extremely Cool Brown Dwarfs

The Brown-dwarf Atmosphere Monitoring (BAM) Project II: Multi-epoch monitoring of extremely cool brown dwarfs


Rajan et al


With the discovery of Y dwarfs by the WISE mission, the population of field brown dwarfs now extends to objects with temperatures comparable to those of Solar System planets. To investigate the atmospheres of these newly identified brown dwarfs, we have conducted a pilot study monitoring an initial sample of three late T-dwarfs (T6.5, T8 and T8.5) and one Y-dwarf (Y0) for infrared photometric variability at multiple epochs. With J-band imaging, each target was observed for a period of 1.0h to 4.5h per epoch, which covers a significant fraction of the expected rotational period. These measurements represent the first photometric monitoring for these targets. For three of the four targets (2M1047, Ross 458C and WISE0458), multi-epoch monitoring was performed, with the time span between epochs ranging from a few hours to ~2 years. During the first epoch, the T8.5 target WISE0458 exhibited variations with a remarkable min-to-max amplitude of 13%, while the second epoch light curve taken ~2 years later did not note any variability to a 3% upper limit. With an effective temperature of ~600 K, WISE0458 is the coldest variable brown dwarf published to-date, and combined with its high and variable amplitude makes it a fascinating target for detailed follow-up. The three remaining targets showed no significant variations, with a photometric precision between 0.8% and 20.0%, depending on the target brightness. Combining the new results with previous multi-epoch observations of brown dwarfs with spectral types of T5 or later, the currently identified variables have locations on the colour-colour diagram better matched by theoretical models incorporating cloud opacities rather than cloud-free atmospheres. This preliminary result requires further study to determine if there is a definitive link between variability among late-T dwarfs and their location on the colour-colour diagram.

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