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The role played by the nearby stars in defining the realm of very low mass stars and brown dwarfs will be discussed in detail. Special attention will be focused on what is perhaps the single most important characteristic of a red dwarf, its mass. It is the mass that places an object firmly in the murky region in the depths of main sequence, and what may, in fact, finally convince us that a particular object is a brown dwarf. Binaries that lie in the solar neighborhood which are being used to define the stellar/substellar transition zone will be discussed in detail. A program currently underway to determine masses more accurately and provide additional low mass objects for the mass-luminosity relation will be outlined.
In a broader context, the luminosity and mass functions of the nearest stars will be presented, and the completeness of the nearby star sample evaluated. Because the red dwarfs dominate the galactic census (no less than three quarters of the nearby stars have masses less than 0.5 M$_\odot$), they constitute an important part of the population, and should be studied in depth.
Wednesday program listing