Infrared Parallaxes for Methane T Dwarfs

August 2003 • 2003AJ....126..975T

Authors • Tinney, C. G. • Burgasser, Adam J. • Kirkpatrick, J. Davy

Abstract • We report final results from our 2.5 yr infrared parallax program carried out with the European Southern Observatory 3.5 m New Technology Telescope and the SOFI infrared camera. Our program targeted precision astrometric observations of 10 T-type brown dwarfs in the J band. Full astrometric solutions (including trigonometric parallaxes) for nine T dwarfs are provided along with proper-motion solutions for a further object. We find that HgCdTe-based infrared cameras are capable of delivering precision differential astrometry. For T dwarfs, infrared observations are to be greatly preferred over the optical, both because they are so much brighter in the infrared, and because their prominent methane absorptions lead to similar effective wavelengths through the J filter for both target and reference stars, which in turn results in a dramatic reduction in differential color refraction effects. We describe a technique for robust bias estimation and linearity correction with the SOFI camera, along with an upper limit to the astrometric distortion of the SOFI optical train. Color-magnitude and spectral type-magnitude diagrams for both L and T dwarfs are presented that show complex and significant structure, with major import for luminosity function and mass function work on T dwarfs. Based on the width of the early L dwarf and late T dwarf color magnitude diagrams, we conclude the brightening of early T dwarfs in the J passband (the ``early T hump'') is not an age effect, but due to the complexity of brown dwarf cooling curves. Finally, empirical estimates of the ``turn on'' magnitudes for methane absorption in field T dwarfs and in young stars clusters are provided. These make the interpretation of the T6 dwarf σ Ori J053810.1-023626 as a σ Ori member problematic.

Based on observations obtained at the European Southern Observatory, La Silla, Chile, under programs 65.L-0061, 66.C-0404, 67.C-0029, 68.C-0004, and 69.C-0044.


IPAC Authors


Davy Kirkpatrick

Senior Scientist