Dust clouds or magnetic spots? Exploring the atmospheres of L dwarfs with time-resolved spectrophotometry
Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Corresponding author: email@example.com
Accepted: 15 May 2002
I present the results of a program to spectrophotometrically monitor the L1.5 dwarf 2MASSW J1145572+231730 to identify the cause of photospheric variability in ultra cool dwarfs. Plausible candidates are magnetically-induced star spots and inhomogeneous photospheric dust clouds. Based on the atmospheric models and synthetic spectra of Allard et al. (2001), the expected signatures of these phenomena in the 0.5–2.5 μm wavelength region are presented and discussed. Near infrared spectra of 2M1145 were obtained along with a nearby reference star observed simultaneously in the spectrograph slit. No convincing variability over a 54 hour interval is found in any one of several colour indices designed to be most sensitive to dust- and spot-related variability. Nonetheless, a significant correlation between the variability of two colour indices is found. This is slightly more consistent with the dust-related variability model than the cool spot one considered. Based on the theoretically predicted signatures and the median errors in the colour indices (0.03–0.05 mag), upper limits are placed on the coverage of possible spots and clouds. Assuming the L dwarf to be best modelled by a dusty atmosphere at 1900 K, coherent clear clouds are limited to a coverage of 10–15% of the projected surface area and 200 K cooler spots to a 20% coverage. A larger coverage of many small features varying incoherently cannot be ruled out with this method. A lower effective temperature restricts coherent clear clouds to be much smaller; a higher temperature allows both clouds and spots to be larger. These upper limits are consistent with the two separate variability detections in the I-band reported by Bailer-Jones & Mundt (2001).
Key words: stars: atmospheres / stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs / stars: starspots / stars: variables: general / stars: individual: 2MASSW J1145572+231730 / methods: data analysis
© ESO, 2002