AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 69. Planet Searchs and Dwarfs
Display, Thursday, June 7, 2001, 9:20am-4:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[69.07] Evidence for Circumstellar Disks around Young Brown Dwarfs in the Trapezium Cluster

A.A. Muench, E.A. Lada (UFL), J.A. Alves (ESO), C.J. Lada (CfA)

We have obtained deep near-infrared JHK images of the Trapezium Cluster in Orion using the ESO NTT and SOFI infrared camera and have identified approximately 100 brown dwarf candidates. An examination of the colors of these young brown dwarfs reveals that a significant fraction (60±0%) exhibit near-infrared excess emission similar to T-Tauri stars with circumstellar disks. This suggests that the majority of these sub-stellar sources are presently surrounded by circumstellar disks, similar to the higher mass stellar population in this cluster. The high initial disk frequency (>60%) around cluster members of all masses, combined with the smooth continuity of the cluster's initial mass function across the hydrogen burning limit implies that a single physical mechanism is likely responsible for producing both stellar and sub-stellar objects independent of mass. Further, these results suggest that not only do brown dwarfs form in a similar manner to stars, but that they also have the potential to form with planetary systems.

This research was supported by a Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellowship, the NASA Graduate Student Research Program, and NSF Grant AST-9733367.

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