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The density of methane brown dwarfs: observational and theoretical constraints
Received 18 June 1999 / Accepted 1 October 1999
Methane brown dwarfs (CH4bds ), i.e. objects similar to the low mass star Gliese 229B, are characterized by very unusual colours: J-K0 and I-J5. An analysis of the ESO public images, which cover an area of 37 sq. arcmin in the three filters, yields one clear CH4BD candidate with J=20.2 and two fainter sources with J23. The resulting observed density of methane dwarfs ranges from 100 to 500 objects per sq. degree with J23.1, quite high but compatible, within the errors, with what we derive from simulations of the stellar population of brown dwarfs in the disk of the Galaxy adopting reasonable (although still speculative) hypotheses on the evolution of BD colours with cooling. The predictions presented here can be useful in constraining the results from future searches of these objects in the infrared. Deep imaging of several sq. degrees of sky down to J22, K22 and I27 are necessary to significantly improve the observational database.
Key words: stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs stars: luminosity function, mass function infrared: stars
Send offprint requests to: F. D'Antona (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Online publication: December 2, 1999