I. Age determination using stellar chronology with white dwarfs in wide binaries
Institut de Ciències de l’Espai (IEEC-CSIC ), Facultat de Ciències, Campus UAB, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
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2 Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield, AL10 9AB, UK
Received: 24 February 2011
Accepted: 30 March 2011
Context. Stellar ages are extremely difficult to determine and often subject to large uncertainties, especially for field low-mass stars. We plan to carry out a calibration of the decrease in high-energy emissions of low-mass GKM stars with time, and therefore precise age determination is a key ingredient. The overall goal of our research is to study the time evolution of these high-energy emissions as an essential input to studying exoplanetary atmospheres.
Aims. We propose to determine stellar ages with a methodology based on wide binaries. We are interested in systems composed of a low-mass star and a white dwarf (WD), where the latter serves as a stellar chronometer for the system. We aim at obtaining reliable ages for a sample of late-type stars older than 1 Gyr.
Methods. We selected a sample of wide binaries composed by a DA type WD and a GKM companion. High signal-to-noise, low-resolution spectroscopic observations were obtained for most of the WD members of the sample. Atmospheric parameters were determined by fitting the spectroscopic data to appropiate WD models. The total ages of the systems were derived by using cooling sequences, an initial-final mass relationship and evolutionary tracks, to account for the progenitor life.
Results. The spectroscopic observations have allowed us to determine ages for the binary systems using WDs as cosmochronometers. We obtained reliable ages for 27 stars between 1 and 5 Gyr, which is a range where age determination becomes difficult for field objects. Roughly half of these systems have cooling ages that contribute at least 30% the total age. We select those for further study since their age estimate should be less prone to systematic errors coming from the initial-final mass relationship.
Conclusions. We have determined robust ages for a sizeable sample of GKM stars that can be subsequently used to study the time evolution of their emissions associated to stellar magnetic activity.
Key words: white dwarfs / binaries: visual / stars: low-mass / stars: activity / stars: evolution
Based on observations collected at the Centro Astronómico Hispano Alemán (CAHA) at Calar Alto, operated jointly by the Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC).
© ESO, 2011