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Published December 1, 2014 | Published
Journal Article Open

A Pulsation Search among Young Brown Dwarfs and Very-low-mass Stars


In 2005, Palla & Baraffe proposed that brown dwarfs (BDs) and very-low-mass stars (VLMSs; < 0.1 solar masses) may be unstable to radial oscillations during the pre-main-sequence deuterium burning phase. With associated periods of one to four hours, this potentially new class of pulsation offers unprecedented opportunities to probe the interiors and evolution of low-mass objects in the 1-15 million year age range. Following up on reports of short-period variability in young clusters, we designed a high-cadence photometric monitoring campaign to search for deuterium-burning pulsation among a sample of 348 BDs and VLMSs in the four young clusters σ Orionis, Chamaeleon I, IC 348, and Upper Scorpius. In the resulting light curves we achieved sensitivity to periodic signals of amplitude several millimagnitudes, on timescales from 15 minutes to two weeks. Despite the exquisite data quality, we failed to detect any periodicities below seven hours. We conclude that D-burning pulsations are not able to grow to observable amplitudes in the early pre-main sequence. In spite of the nondetection, we did uncover a rich set of variability behavior—both periodic and aperiodic—on day to week timescales. We present new compilations of variable sources from our sample, as well as three new candidate cluster members in Chamaeleon I.

Additional Information

© 2014 American Astronomical Society. Received 2014 September 10; accepted 2014 October 17; published 2014 November 14. Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. These observations are associated with program 11610. A.M.C. thanks the CTIO Telescope Operations staff for help in carrying out observations. Observation time on SMARTS consortium facilities was awarded through the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, under contract with the National Science Foundation.

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