The Next Generation Sky Survey and the Quest for Cooler Brown Dwarfs
Kirkpatrick, J. Davy
The Next Generation Sky Survey (NGSS) is a proposed NASA MIDEX mission to map the entire sky in four infrared bandpasses - 3.5, 4.7, 12, and 23 um. The seven-month mission will use a 50-cm telescope and four-channel imager to survey the sky from a circular orbit above the Earth. Expected sensitivities will be half a million times that of COBE/DIRBE at 3.5 and 4.7 um and a thousand times that of IRAS at 12 and 23 um. NGSS will be particularly sensitive to brown dwarfs cooler than those presently known. Deep absorption in the methane fundamental band at 3.3 um and a predicted 5-um overluminosity will produce uniquely red 3.5-to-4.7 um colors for such objects. For a limiting volume of 25 pc, NGSS will completely inventory the Solar Neighborhood for brown dwarfs as cool as Gl 229B. At 10 pc, the census will be complete to 500 K. Assuming a field mass function with alpha = 1, there could be one or more brown dwarfs warmer than 150 K lying closer to the Sun than Proxima Centauri and detectable primarily at NGSS wavelengths. NGSS will enable estimates of the brown dwarf mass and luminosity functions to very cool temperatures and will provide both astrometric references and science targets for NGST.