M-dwarf rapid rotators and the detection of relatively young multiple m-star systems

S. Rappaport, J. Swift, A. Levine, M. Joss, R. Sanchis-Ojeda, T. Barclay, M. Still, G. Handler, K. Oláh, P. S. Muirhead, D. Huber, K. Vida

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16 Citations (Scopus)


We have searched the Kepler light curves of ∼3900 M-star targets for evidence of periodicities that indicate, by means of the effects of starspots, rapid stellar rotation. Several analysis techniques, including Fourier transforms, inspection of folded light curves, "sonograms," and phase tracking of individual modulation cycles, were applied in order to distinguish the periodicities due to rapid rotation from those due to stellar pulsations, eclipsing binaries, or transiting planets. We find 178 Kepler M-star targets with rotation periods, P rot, of <2 days, and 110 with P rot < 1 day. Some 30 of the 178 systems exhibit two or more independent short periods within the same Kepler photometric aperture, while several have 3 or more short periods. Adaptive optics imaging and modeling of the Kepler pixel response function for a subset of our sample support the conclusion that the targets with multiple periods are highly likely to be relatively young physical binary, triple, and even quadruple M star systems. We explore in detail the one object with four incommensurate periods all less than 1.2 days, and show that two of the periods arise from one of a close pair of stars, while the other two arise from the second star, which itself is probably a visual binary. If most of these M-star systems with multiple periods turn out to be bound M stars, this could prove a valuable way discovering young hierarchical M-star systems; the same approach may also be applicable to G and K stars. The ∼5% occurrence rate of rapid rotation among the ∼3900 M star targets is consistent with spin evolution models that include an initial contraction phase followed by magnetic braking, wherein a typical M star can spend several hundred Myr before spinning down to periods longer than 2 days.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 20 2014


  • binaries: close
  • binaries: general
  • stars: activity
  • stars: late-type
  • stars: rotation
  • starspots
  • techniques: photometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Rappaport, S., Swift, J., Levine, A., Joss, M., Sanchis-Ojeda, R., Barclay, T., Still, M., Handler, G., Oláh, K., Muirhead, P. S., Huber, D., & Vida, K. (2014). M-dwarf rapid rotators and the detection of relatively young multiple m-star systems. Astrophysical Journal, 788(2), [114]. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/788/2/114