Friday, September 30, 2016

A Survey for H-alpha Emission From Late L and T Class Brown Dwarfs

A Survey for H-alpha Emission from Late L dwarfs and T dwarfs


Pineda et al


Recently, studies of brown dwarfs have demonstrated that they possess strong magnetic fields and have the potential to produce radio and optical auroral emissions powered by magnetospheric currents. This emission provides the only window on magnetic fields in the coolest brown dwarfs and identifying additional benchmark objects is key to constraining dynamo theory in this regime. To this end, we conducted a new red optical (6300 - 9700 Angstrom) survey with the Keck telescopes looking for H-alpha emission from a sample of late L dwarfs and T dwarfs. Our survey gathered optical spectra for 29 targets, 18 of which did not have previous optical spectra in the literature, greatly expanding the number of moderate resolution (R~2000) spectra available at these spectral types. Combining our sample with previous surveys, we confirm an H-alpha detection rate of 9.2 (+3.5/-2.1) % for L and T dwarfs in the optical spectral range of L4 - T8. This detection rate is consistent with the recently measured detection rate for auroral radio emission from Kao et al. (2016), suggesting that geometrical selection effects due to the beaming of the radio emission are small or absent. We also provide the first detection of H-alpha emission from 2MASS 0036+1821, previously notable as the only electron cyclotron maser radio source without a confirmed detection of H-alpha emission. Finally, we also establish optical standards for spectral types T3 and T4, filling in the previous gap between T2 and T5.

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