Surface Gravities for 228 M, L, and T Dwarfs in the NIRSPEC Brown Dwarf Spectroscopic Survey

March 2017 • 2017ApJ...838...73M

Authors • Martin, Emily C. • Mace, Gregory N. • McLean, Ian S. • Logsdon, Sarah E. • Rice, Emily L. • Kirkpatrick, J. Davy • Burgasser, Adam J. • McGovern, Mark R. • Prato, Lisa

Abstract • We combine 131 new medium-resolution (R ∼ 2000) J-band spectra of M, L, and T dwarfs from the Keck NIRSPEC Brown Dwarf Spectroscopic Survey (BDSS) with 97 previously published BDSS spectra to study surface-gravity-sensitive indices for 228 low-mass stars and brown dwarfs spanning spectral types M5-T9. Specifically, we use an established set of spectral indices to determine surface gravity classifications for all of the M6-L7 objects in our sample by measuring the equivalent widths (EW) of the K I lines at 1.1692, 1.1778, and 1.2529 μm, and the 1.2 μm FeH J absorption index. Our results are consistent with previous surface gravity measurements, showing a distinct double peak—at ∼L5 and T5—in K I EW as a function of spectral type. We analyze the K I EWs of 73 objects of known ages and find a linear trend between log(Age) and EW. From this relationship, we assign age ranges to the very low gravity, intermediate gravity, and field gravity designations for spectral types M6-L0. Interestingly, the ages probed by these designations remain broad, change with spectral type, and depend on the gravity-sensitive index used. Gravity designations are useful indicators of the possibility of youth, but current data sets cannot be used to provide a precise age estimate.

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