October 2017 • 2017MNRAS.470.4885M
Abstract • We explore the potential of Gaia for the field of benchmark ultracool/brown dwarf companions, and present the results of an initial search for metal-rich/metal-poor systems. A simulated population of resolved ultracool dwarf companions to Gaia primary stars is generated and assessed. Of the order of ∼24 000 companions should be identifiable outside of the Galactic plane (|b| > 10 deg) with large-scale ground- and space-based surveys including late M, L, T and Y types. Our simulated companion parameter space covers 0.02 ≤ M/M⊙ ≤ 0.1, 0.1 ≤ age/Gyr ≤ 14 and -2.5 ≤ [Fe/H] ≤ 0.5, with systems required to have a false alarm probability <10-4, based on projected separation and expected constraints on common distance, common proper motion and/or common radial velocity. Within this bulk population, we identify smaller target subsets of rarer systems whose collective properties still span the full parameter space of the population, as well as systems containing primary stars that are good age calibrators. Our simulation analysis leads to a series of recommendations for candidate selection and observational follow-up that could identify ∼500 diverse Gaia benchmarks. As a test of the veracity of our methodology and simulations, our initial search uses UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey and Sloan Digital Sky Survey to select secondaries, with the parameters of primaries taken from Tycho-2, Radial Velocity Experiment, Large sky Area Multi-Object fibre Spectroscopic Telescope and Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution. We identify and follow up 13 new benchmarks. These include M8-L2 companions, with metallicity constraints ranging in quality, but robust in the range -0.39 ≤ [Fe/H] ≤ +0.36, and with projected physical separation in the range 0.6 < s/kau < 76. Going forward, Gaia offers a very high yield of benchmark systems, from which diverse subsamples may be able to calibrate a range of foundational ultracool/sub-stellar theory and observation.