On the Correlation between L Dwarf Optical and Infrared Variability and Radio Aurorae

Tyler Richey-Yowell, Melodie M. Kao, J. Sebastian Pineda, Evgenya L. Shkolnik, Gregg Hallinan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Photometric variability attributed to cloud phenomena is common in L/T transition brown dwarfs. Recent studies show that such variability may also trace aurorae, suggesting that localized magnetic heating may contribute to observed brown dwarf photometric variability. We assess this potential correlation with a survey of 17 photometrically variable brown dwarfs using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array at 4–8 GHz. We detect quiescent and highly circularly polarized flaring emission from one source, 2MASS J17502484-0016151, which we attribute to auroral electron cyclotron maser emission. The detected auroral emission extends throughout the frequency band at ∼5–25σ, and we do not detect evidence of a cutoff. Our detection confirms that 2MASS J17502484-0016151 hosts a magnetic field strength of 2.9 kG, similar to those of other radio-bright ultracool dwarfs. We show that Hα emission continues to be an accurate tracer of auroral activity in brown dwarfs. Supplementing our study with data from the literature, we calculate the occurrence rates of quiescent emission in L dwarfs with low- and high-amplitude variability and conclude that high-amplitude optical and infrared variability does not trace radio magnetic activity in L dwarfs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number74
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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