EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 499, Number 1, May III 2009
Page(s) 129 - 135
Section Galactic structure, stellar clusters, and populations
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200811590
Published online 08 April 2009
A&A 499, 129-135 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200811590

Quantifying the contamination by old main-sequence stars in young moving groups: the case of the Local Association

J. López-Santiago1, 2, G. Micela2, and D. Montes1

1  Departamento de Astrofísica y Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
    e-mail: [jls;dmg]@astrax.fis.ucm.es
2  INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo Giuseppe S. Vaiana, Piazza Parlamento 1, 90134 Palermo, Italy
    e-mail: giusi@astropa.unipa.it

Received 23 December 2008 / Accepted 23 February 2009

Context. The associations and moving groups of young stars are excellent laboratories for investigating stellar formation in the solar neighborhood. Previous results have confirmed that a non-negligible fraction of old main-sequence stars is present in the lists of possible members of young stellar kinematic groups. A detailed study of the properties of these samples is needed to separate the young stars from old main-sequence stars with similar space motion, and identify the origin of these structures.
Aims. Our intention is to characterize members of the young moving groups, determine their age distribution, and quantify the contamination by old main-sequence stars, in particular, for the Local Association.
Methods. We used stars possible members of the young (~10–650 Myr) moving groups from the literature. To determine the age of the stars, we used several suitable age indicators for young main sequence stars, i.e., X-ray fluxes from the Rosat All-sky Survey database, photometric data from the Tycho-2, Hipparcos, and 2MASS database. We also used spectroscopic data, in particular the equivalent width of the lithium line Li I $\lambda$6707.8 Å and H$_\alpha$, to constrain the range of ages of the stars.
Results. By combining photometric and spectroscopic data, we were able to separate the young stars (10-650 Myr) from the old (>1 Gyr) field ones. We found, in particular, that the Local Association is contaminated by old field stars at the level of ~30%. This value must be considered as the contamination for our particular sample, and not of the entire Local Association. For other young moving groups, it is more difficult to estimate the fraction of old stars among possible members. However, the level of X-ray emission can, at least, help to separate two age populations: stars with <200 Myr and stars older than this.
Conclusions. Among the candidate members of the classical moving groups, there is a non-negligible fraction of old field stars that should be taken into account when studying the stellar birthrate in the solar neighborhood. Our results are consistent with a scenario in which the moving groups contain both groups of young stars formed in a recent star-formation episode and old field stars with similar space motion. Only by combining X-ray and optical spectroscopic data is it possible to distinguish between these two age populations.

Key words: Galaxy: stellar content -- Galaxy: solar neighborhood -- stars: kinematics -- stars: activity -- stars: coronae

© ESO 2009