A photometric variability survey of field K and M dwarf stars with HATNET

J. D. Hartman, G. A. Bakos, R. W. Noyes, B. Sipöcz, G. Kovács, T. Mazeh, A. Shporer, A. Pál

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130 Scopus citations


Using light curves from the HATNet survey for transiting extrasolar planets we investigate the optical broadband photometric variability of a sample of 27, 560 field K and M dwarfs selected by color and proper motion (V - K ≳ 3.0, μ > 30 mas yr-1, plus additional cuts in J - H versus H - KS and on the reduced proper motion). We search the light curves for periodic variations and for large-amplitude, long-duration flare events. A total of 2120 stars exhibit potential variability, including 95 stars with eclipses and 60 stars with flares. Based on a visual inspection of these light curves and an automated blending classification, we select 1568 stars, including 78 eclipsing binaries (EBs), as secure variable star detections that are not obvious blends. We estimate that a further 26% of these stars may be blends with fainter variables, though most of these blends are likely to be among the hotter stars in our sample. We find that only 38 of the 1568 stars, including five of the EBs, have previously been identified as variables or are blended with previously identified variables. One of the newly identified EBs is 1RXS J154727.5+450803, a known P = 3.55 day, late M-dwarf SB2 system, for which we derive preliminary estimates for the component masses and radii of M1 = M2 = 0.258 ± 0.008 M and R1 = R2 = 0.289 ± 0.007 R. The radii of the component stars are larger than theoretical expectations if the system is older than 200 Myr. The majority of the variables are heavily spotted BY Dra-type stars for which we determine rotation periods. Using this sample, we investigate the relations between period, color, age, and activity measures, including optical flaring, for K and M dwarfs, finding that many of the well-established relations for F, G, and K dwarfs continue into the M dwarf regime. We find that the fraction of stars that is variable with peak-to-peak amplitudes greater than 0.01 mag increases exponentially with the V - KS color such that approximately half of field dwarfs in the solar neighborhood with M ≲ 0.2 M are variable at this level. Our data hint at a change in the rotation-activity-age connection for stars with M ≲ 0.25 M .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • binaries: eclipsing
  • stars: fundamental parameters
  • stars: late-type
  • stars: low-mass
  • stars: rotation
  • techniques: photometric


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