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G. J. Veeder (JPL), T. H. Jarrett (IPAC)
M dwarf systems often have multiple components. These include spectroscopic as well as wide binaries. The well known example of VB 10 is 74" (~400AU) from Gliese 752a. Since brighter substellar companions are expected in younger systems, they should be associated with low space motion Me (hydrogen emission) dwarfs and flare stars which display coronal activity. Self-luminous planets are expected to show the best contrast against the sky background and the scattered light from their primary stars near their thermal emission peak.
We have imaged fields in the near-infrared around several Me dwarfs in the solar neighborhood. Targeting strategy emphasizes low luminosity flare stars at high galactic latitudes. Deep exposures were obtained with the Prime Focus Infrared Camera (PFIRCAM) on the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory. The FOV of PFIRCAM is 128x128 arcsec. Observations were made at J, K' and a narrowband filter (K") to isolate the strong methane feature between 2.3-2.4 microns. Each PFIRCAM field yields ~10 IR sources down to ~20 K mag. Their photometric data have been reduced to absolute magnitudes via the distance modulus of each target for comparison among fields. The colors of these IR sources range from neutral white to the reddest M and L dwarfs. K" has good potential as a methane discriminant for cool near-infrared companions.
PFIRCAM was developed by C. Beichman. This work was done at JPL under contract to NASA.