NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2011B-0588

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Proposal Information for 2011B-0588


PI: Barbara Rojas-Ayala, Cornell University, babs@astro.cornell.edu
Address: Astronomy Department, 226 Space Sciences Building, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

CoI: John J. Bochanski, The Pennsylvania State University
CoI: Kevin R. Covey, Cornell University
CoI: Sebastien Lepine, American Museum of Natural History
CoI: James P. Lloyd, Cornell University
CoI: Jeff A. Valenti, Space Telescope Science Institute

Title: Robustly Calibrating the Near-Infrared M Dwarf Metallicity Scale

Abstract: Measuring metallicities of the lowest mass stars is a remarkably challenging problem. Their cool atmospheres host a complex molecular chemistry that generates highly structured spectra whose interpretation presents major computational and conceptual challenges. We recently developed an empirical technique to derive M dwarf metallicities from K- band alkali lines; this method is now being used to identify metal-rich M dwarfs with the most potential as exoplanet hosts. The calibration of this technique rests, however, on a modest sample of 17 M dwarf secondaries to FGK dwarfs with accurate [Fe/H] measurements. \textbfWe propose a multi-facility observing campaign to expand the number of M dwarf metallicity calibrators by more than an order of magnitude, and extend the relation to the lowest mass stars which present the greatest promise for the detection & characterization of super-Earth exoplanets. We will observe ~150 FGK+M systems selected from modern binary catalogs. Many of these primaries have existing metallicity estimates, and these systems will immediately produce >20 very low-mass (M4 or later) and >10 low-metallicity (Fe/H<-0.4) calibrators to extend the near-infrared (NIR) metallicity scale into new areas of parameter space.


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