A Monitoring Campaign for Luhman 16AB. I. Detection of Resolved Near-Infrared Spectroscopic Variability
We report resolved near-infrared spectroscopic monitoring of the nearby L dwarf/T dwarf binary WISE J104915.57-531906.1AB (Luhman 16AB), as part of a broader campaign to characterize the spectral energy distribution and temporal variability of this system. A continuous 45 minute sequence of low-resolution IRTF/SpeX data spanning 0.8-2.4 μm were obtained, concurrent with combined-light optical photometry with ESO/TRAPPIST. Our spectral observations confirm the flux reversal of this binary, and we detect a wavelength-dependent decline in the relative spectral fluxes of the two components coincident with a decline in the combined-light optical brightness of the system over the course of the observation. These data are successfully modeled as a combination of achromatic (brightness) and chromatic (color) variability in the T0.5 Luhman 16B, consistent with variations in overall cloud opacity; and no significant variability was found in L7.5 Luhman 16A, consistent with recent resolved photometric monitoring. We estimate a peak-to-peak amplitude of 13.5% at 1.25 μm over the full light curve. Using a simple two-spot brightness temperature model for Luhman 16B, we infer an average cold covering fraction of ≈30%-55%, varying by 15%-30% over a rotation period assuming a ≈200-400 K difference between hot and cold regions. We interpret these variations as changes in the covering fraction of a high cloud deck and corresponding "holes" which expose deeper, hotter cloud layers, although other physical interpretations are possible. A Rhines scale interpretation for the size of the variable features explains an apparent correlation between period and amplitude for Luhman 16B and the variable T dwarfs SIMP 0136+0933 and 2MASS J2139+0220, and predicts relatively fast winds (1-3 km s-1) for Luhman 16B consistent with light curve evolution on an advective time scale (1-3 rotation periods). The strong variability observed in this flux reversal brown dwarf pair supports the model of a patchy disruption of the mineral cloud layer as a universal feature of the L dwarf/T dwarf transition.
Physics, Astronomy, and Materials Science
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Burgasser, Adam J., Michaël Gillon, Jacqueline K. Faherty, Jacqueline Radigan, Amaury HMJ Triaud, Peter Plavchan, Rachel Street, Emmanuel Jehin, Laetitia Delrez, and Cyrielle Opitom. "A Monitoring Campaign for Luhman 16AB. I. Detection of Resolved Near-Infrared Spectroscopic Variability." The Astrophysical Journal 785, no. 1 (2014): 48.
The Astrophysical Journal