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Search for brown-dwarf companions of stars

J. Sahlmann, D. Ségransan, D. Queloz, S. Udry, N. C. Santos, M. Marmier, M. Mayor, D. Naef, F. Pepe, S. Zucker

Context. The frequency of brown-dwarf companions in close orbit around Sun-like stars is low compared to the frequency of planetary and stellar companions. There is presently no comprehensive explanation of this lack of brown-dwarf companions.
Aims. By combining the orbital solutions obtained from stellar radial-velocity curves and Hipparcos astrometric measurements, we attempt to determine the orbit inclinations and therefore the masses of the orbiting companions. By determining the masses of potential brown-dwarf companions, we improve our knowledge of the companion mass-function.
Methods. The radial-velocity solutions revealing potential brown-dwarf companions are obtained for stars from the CORALIE and HARPS planet-search surveys or from the literature. The best Keplerian fit to our radial-velocity measurements is found using the Levenberg-Marquardt method. The spectroscopic elements of the radial-velocity solution constrain the fit to the intermediate astrometric data of the new Hipparcos reduction. The astrometric solution and the orbit inclination are found using non-linear χ2-minimisation on a two-parameter search grid. The statistical confidence of the adopted orbital solution is evaluated based on the distribution-free permutation test.
Results. The discovery of nine new brown-dwarf candidates orbiting stars in the CORALIE and HARPS radial-velocity surveys is reported. New CORALIE radial velocities yielding accurate orbits of six previously-known hosts of potential brown-dwarf companions are presented. Including the literature targets, 33 hosts of potential brown-dwarf companions are examined. Employing innovative methods, we use the new reduction of the Hipparcos data to fully characterise the astrometric orbits of six objects, revealing M-dwarf companions of masses between 90 MJ and 0.52 M. In addition, the masses of two companions can be restricted to the stellar domain. The companion to HD 137510 is found to be a brown dwarf. At 95% confidence, the companion of HD 190228 is also a brown dwarf. Twenty-three companions remain brown-dwarf candidates. On the basis of the CORALIE planet-search sample, we obtain an upper limit of 0.6% for the frequency of brown-dwarf companions around Sun-like stars. We find that the companion-mass distribution function increases toward the lower end of the brown-dwarf mass range, suggesting that we detect the high-mass tail of the planetary distribution.
Conclusions. Our findings agree with the results of previous similar studies and confirm the pronounced paucity of brown-dwarf companions around Sun-like stars. They are affected by the Hipparcos astrometric precision and mission duration, which limits the minimum detectable companion mass, and some of the remaining candidates are probably brown-dwarf companions.

binaries: spectroscopic - brown dwarfs - stars: low-mass - techniques: radial velocities - astrometry

Based on observations made with the CORALIE spectrograph on the Swiss telescope at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile, with the ESA Hipparcos astrometry satellite, and with the HARPS instrument on the ESO 3.6-m telescope (GTO programme 072.C-0488).
The CORALIE and HARPS radial-velocity measurements discussed in this paper are only available in electronic form at the CDS via anonymous ftp to ( or via

Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume 525, Number of pages A95_1
2011 January

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia