March 2006 • 2006ApJ...639.1120K
Abstract • While following up L dwarf candidates selected photometrically from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, we uncovered an unusual object designated 2MASS J01415823-4633574. Its optical spectrum exhibits very strong bands of vanadium oxide but abnormally weak absorptions by titanium oxide, potassium, and sodium. Morphologically, such spectroscopic characteristics fall intermediate between old field early-L dwarfs [log(g)~5] and very late M giants [log(g)~0], leading us to favor low gravity as the explanation for the unique spectral signatures of this L dwarf. Such a low gravity can be explained only if this L dwarf is much lower in mass than a typical old field L dwarf of similar temperature and is still contracting to its final radius. These conditions imply a very young age. Further evidence of youth is found in the near-infrared spectrum, including a triangular-shaped H-band continuum, reminiscent of young brown dwarf candidates discovered in the Orion Nebula Cluster. Using the above information along with comparisons to brown dwarf atmospheric and interior models, our current best estimate is that this L dwarf has an age of 1-50 Myr and a mass of 6-25MJ. Although the lack of a lithium detection (pseudo-equivalent width <1 Å) might appear to contradict other evidence of youth, we suggest that lithium becomes weaker at lower gravity like all other alkali lines and thus needs to be carefully considered before being used as a diagnostic of age or mass for objects in this regime. The location of 2MASS 0141-4633 on the sky coupled with a distance estimate of ~35 pc and the above age estimate suggests that this object may be a brown dwarf member of either the 30 Myr old Tucana/Horologium association or the ~12 Myr old β Pic moving group. Distance as determined through trigonometric parallax (underway) and a measure of the total space motion are needed to test this hypothesis.Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation.