A Survey for Hα Emission from Late L Dwarfs and T Dwarfs

July 2016 • 2016ApJ...826...73P

Authors • Pineda, J. Sebastian • Hallinan, Gregg • Kirkpatrick, J. Davy • Cotter, Garret • Kao, Melodie M. • Mooley, Kunal

Abstract • 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 Å) survey with the Keck telescopes looking for Hα 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 Hα detection rate of 9.2±{}2.13.5% 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., suggesting that geometrical selection effects due to the beaming of the radio emission are small or absent. We also provide the first detection of Hα emission from 2MASS 0036+1821, previously notable as the only electron cyclotron maser radio source without a confirmed detection of Hα emission. Finally, we also establish optical standards for spectral types T3 and T4, filling in the previous gap between T2 and T5.

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.


IPAC Authors


Davy Kirkpatrick

Senior Scientist