EDP Sciences
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Volume 419, Number 1, May III 2004
Page(s) 249 - 267
Section Stellar structure and evolution
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20034022

A&A 419, 249-267 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20034022

Rotation and accretion of very low mass objects in the $\sigma$ Ori cluster

A. Scholz and J. Eislöffel

Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Sternwarte 5, 07778 Tautenburg, Germany
(Received 27 June 2003 / Accepted 27 December 2003)

We report on two photometric monitoring campaigns of Very Low Mass (VLM) objects in the young open cluster around $\sigma$ Orionis. Our targets were pre-selected with multi-filter photometry in a field of 0.36 sqdeg. For 23 of these objects, spanning a mass range from 0.03 to 0.7 $M_{\odot}$, we detect periodic variability. Of these, 16 exhibit low-level variability, with amplitudes of less than 0.2 mag in the I-band, which is mostly well-approximated by a sine wave. These periodicities are probably caused by photospheric spots co-rotating with the objects. In contrast, the remaining variable targets show high-level variability with amplitudes ranging from 0.25 to 1.1 mag, consisting of a periodic light variation onto which short-term fluctuations are superimposed. This variability pattern is very similar to the photometric behaviour of solar-mass, classical T Tauri stars. Low-resolution spectra of a few of these objects reveal strong H $\alpha$ and Ca-triplet emission, indicative of ongoing accretion processes. This suggests that 5-7% of our targets still possess a circumstellar disk. In combination with previous results for younger objects, this translates into a disk lifetime of 3-4 Myr, significantly shorter than for solar mass stars. The highly variable objects rotate on average slower than the low-amplitude variables, which is expected in terms of a disk-locking scenario. There is a trend towards faster rotation with decreasing mass, which might be caused by shortening of the disk lifetimes or attenuation of magnetic fields.

Key words: techniques: photometric -- stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs -- stars: rotation -- stars: formation -- stars: activity -- stars: magnetic fields

Offprint request: A. Scholz, scholz@tls-tautenburg.de

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