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Physics and Astronomy


Ultracool dwarfs (UCDs) represent a significant proportion of stars in the Milky Way, and deep samples of these sources have the potential to constrain the formation history and evolution of low-mass objects in the Galaxy. Until recently, spectral samples have been limited to the local volume (d < 100 pc). Here, we analyze a sample of 164 spectroscopically characterized UCDs identified by Aganze et al. in the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) WFC3 Infrared Spectroscopic Parallel Survey (WISPS) and 3D-HST. We model the observed luminosity function using population simulations to place constraints on scaleheights, vertical velocity dispersions, and population ages as a function of spectral type. Our star counts are consistent with a power-law mass function and constant star formation history for UCDs, with vertical scaleheights of 249 pc for late-M dwarfs, 153 pc for L dwarfs, and 175 pc for T dwarfs. Using spatial and velocity dispersion relations, these scaleheights correspond to disk population ages of 3.6 Gyr for late-M dwarfs, 2.1 Gyr for L dwarfs, and 2.4 Gyr for T dwarfs, which are consistent with prior simulations that predict that L-type dwarfs are on average a younger and less dispersed population. There is an additional 1–2 Gyr systematic uncertainty on these ages due to variances in age-velocity relations. We use our population simulations to predict the UCD yield in the James Webb Space Telescope PASSAGES survey, a similar and deeper survey to WISPS and 3D-HST, and find that it will produce a comparably sized UCD sample, albeit dominated by thick disk and halo sources.


© 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

Original Publication Information

Christian Aganze et al "Beyond the Local Volume. II. Population Scaleheights and Ages of Ultracool Dwarfs in Deep HST/WFC3 Parallel Fields." 2022 Astrophysical Journal 934(1): 1-24.