Cloud Atlas: Variability in and out of the Water Band in the Planetary-mass HD 203030B Points to Cloud Sedimentation in Low-gravity L Dwarfs

October 2019 • 2019ApJ...883..181M

Authors • Miles-Páez, Paulo A. • Metchev, Stanimir • Apai, Dániel • Zhou, Yifan • Manjavacas, Elena • Karalidi, Theodora • Lew, Ben W. P. • Burgasser, Adam J. • Bedin, Luigi R. • Cowan, Nicolas • Lowrance, Patrick J. • Marley, Mark S. • Radigan, Jacqueline • Schneider, Glenn

Abstract • We use the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope to spectrophotometrically monitor the young L7.5 companion HD 203030B. Our time series reveal photometric variability at 1.27 and 1.39 μm on timescales compatible with rotation. We find a rotation period of {7.5}-0.5+0.6 hr: comparable to those observed in other brown dwarfs and planetary-mass companions younger than 300 Myr. We measure variability amplitudes of 1.1% ± 0.3% (1.27 μm) and 1.7% ± 0.4% (1.39 μm), and a phase lag of 56° ± 28° between the two light curves. We attribute the difference in photometric amplitudes and phases to a patchy cloud layer that is sinking below the level where water vapor becomes opaque. HD 203030B and the few other known variable young late-L dwarfs are unlike warmer (earlier-type and/or older) L dwarfs, for which variability is much less wavelength-dependent across the 1.1-1.7 μm region. We further suggest that a sinking of the top-most cloud deck below the level where water or carbon monoxide gas become opaque may also explain the often enhanced variability amplitudes of even earlier-type low-gravity L dwarfs. Because these condensate and gas opacity levels are already well-differentiated in T dwarfs, we do not expect the same variability amplitude enhancement in young versus old T dwarfs.


IPAC Authors


Patrick Lowrance

Senior Scientist