Previous studies investigating L-dwarf variability have been conducted in the optical I filter. These studies have shown that some, but not all L dwarfs are variable in this filter. In this dissertation I increase the number of L dwarfs observed for variations in the I filter from 10 to 25, with another three from the original ten reexamined here. I find that at least 7 and possibly as many as 12 are variable. One of these variable objects has a puzzling saw-tooth pattern in part of its light curve and another displays a feature that could indicate the creation and dissipation of a large storm. There is no evidence for significant differences between the variable and non- variable objects in their colors, Hα emission, or Li I absorption. I argue that the lack of a correlation between Hα and variability, coupled with low magnetic Reynolds number and ionization fraction in the upper atmosphere, suggests a non-magnetic origin for the variations and favors non-uniform condensate coverage. Furthermore, the absence of significant periodicity in these objects could indicate that these clouds evolve rapidly on timescales of hours to days. In addition to the optical survey, I also present the first multi-wavelength near-infrared search for photometric variations in L dwarfs. I was unable to detect any definite variability in these eleven targets. The upper limits for the amplitude of possible variations suggest that L dwarfs display smaller variations in K than in J and H . The small number of objects on which this conclusion is based and the lack of variability detections underscores the importance of more work in this wavelength regime.
- Pub Date:
- Physics: Astronomy and Astrophysics