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We present the first rates of flares from M dwarf stars in both red optical and near-infrared (NIR) filters. We have studied ~50,000 M dwarfs from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Stripe 82 area and 1321 M dwarfs from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) Calibration Scan Point Source Working Database that overlap SDSS imaging fields. We assign photometric spectral types from M0 to M6 using (ri) and (iz) colors for every star in our sample. Stripe 82 stars each have 50-100 epochs of data, while 2MASS Calibration stars have ~1900 epochs. From these data we estimate the observed rates and theoretical detection thresholds for flares in eight photometric bands as a function of spectral type. Optical flare rates are found to be in agreement with previous studies, while the frequency per hour of NIR flare detections is found to be more than two orders of magnitude lower. An excess of small-amplitude flux increases in all bands exhibits a power-law distribution, which we interpret as the result of flares below our detection thresholds. In order to investigate the recovery efficiency for flares in each filter, we extend a two-component flare model into the NIR. Quiescent M0-M6 spectral templates were used with the model to predict the photometric response of flares from u to Ks . We determine that red optical filters are sensitive to flares with u-band amplitudes 2 mag, and NIR filters to flares with Δu 4.5 mag. Our model predicts that M0 stars have the best color contrast for J-band detections, but M4-M6 stars should yield the highest rate of NIR flares with amplitudes of ΔJ ≥ 0.01 mag. Characterizing flare rates and photometric variations at longer wavelengths is important for predicting the signatures of M dwarf variability in next-generation surveys, and we discuss their impact on surveys such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.

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The Astrophysical Journal





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Published 2012 March 6 • © 2012. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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