Long-term 4.6 μm Variability in Brown Dwarfs and a New Technique for Identifying Brown Dwarf Binary Candidates

June 2023 • 2023AJ....165..232B

Authors • Brooks, Hunter • Kirkpatrick, J. Davy • Meisner, Aaron M. • Gelino, Christopher R. • Bardalez Gagliuffi, Daniella C. • Marocco, Federico • Schneider, Adam C. • Faherty, Jacqueline K. • Casewell, S. L. • Raghu, Yadukrishna • Kuchner, Marc J. • Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 Collaboration

Abstract • Using a sample of 361 nearby brown dwarfs, we have searched for 4.6 μm variability, indicative of large-scale rotational modulations or large-scale, long-term changes on timescales of over 10 yr. Our findings show no statistically significant variability in Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) channel 2 (ch2) or Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer W2 photometry. For Spitzer the ch2 1σ limits are ~8 mmag for objects at 11.5 mag and ~22 mmag for objects at 16 mag. This corresponds to no variability above 4.5% at 11.5 mag and 12.5% at 16 mag. We conclude that highly variable brown dwarfs, at least two previously published examples of which have been shown to have 4.6 μm variability above 80 mmag, are very rare. While analyzing the data, we also developed a new technique for identifying brown dwarf binary candidates in Spitzer data. We find that known binaries have IRAC ch2 point response function (PRF) flux measurements that are consistently dimmer than aperture flux measurements. We have identified 59 objects that exhibit such PRF versus aperture flux differences and are thus excellent binary brown dwarf candidates.


IPAC Authors

Chris Gelino

Associate Scientist


Davy Kirkpatrick

Senior Scientist

Federico Marocco

Assistant Scientist