EDP Sciences
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Volume 429, Number 3, January III 2005
Page(s) 1007 - 1023
Section Stellar structure and evolution
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20041932

A&A 429, 1007-1023 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20041932

Rotation and variability of very low mass stars and brown dwarfs near $\epsilon$ Ori

A. Scholz and J. Eislöffel

Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Sternwarte 5, 07778 Tautenburg, Germany
    e-mail: scholz@tls-tautenburg.de

(Received 31 August 2004 / Accepted 13 September 2004)

We explore the rotation and activity of very low mass (VLM) objects by means of a photometric variability study. Our targets in the vicinity of $\epsilon$ Ori belong to the Ori OB1b population in the Orion star-forming complex. In this region we selected 143 VLM stars and brown dwarfs (BDs), whose photometry in RIJHK is consistent with membership of the young population. The variability of these objects was investigated using a densely sampled I-band time series covering four consecutive nights with altogether 129 data points per object. Our targets show three types of variability: Thirty objects, including nine BDs, show significant photometric periods, ranging from 4 h up to 100 h, which we interpret as the rotation periods. Five objects, including two BDs, exhibit variability with high amplitudes up to 1 mag which is at least partly irregular. This behaviour is most likely caused by ongoing accretion and confirms that VLM objects undergo a T Tauri phase similar to solar-mass stars. Finally, one VLM star shows a strong flare event of 0.3 mag amplitude. The rotation periods show dependence on mass, i.e. the average period decreases with decreasing object mass, consistent with previously found mass-period relationships in younger and older clusters. The period distribution of BDs extends down to the breakup period, where centrifugal and gravitational forces are balanced. Combining our BD periods with literature data, we found that the lower period limit for substellar objects lies between 2 h and 4 h, more or less independent of age. Contrary to stars, these fast rotating BDs seem to evolve at constant rotation period from ages of 3 Myr to 1 Gyr, in spite of the contraction process. Thus, they should experience strong rotational braking.

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

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