Visitors from the Halo: 11 Gyr Old White Dwarfs in the Solar Neighborhood
We report the discovery of three nearby old halo white dwarf (WD) candidates in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), including two stars in a common proper motion binary system. These candidates are selected from our 2800 deg(2) proper motion survey on the Bok and U. S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station 1.3 m telescopes, and they display proper motions of 0.'' 4-0 ''.5 yr(-1). Follow-up MMT spectroscopy and near-infrared photometry demonstrate that all three objects are hydrogen-dominated atmosphere WDs with T(eff) approximate to 3700-4100 K. For average mass WDs, these temperature estimates correspond to cooling ages of 9-10 Gyr, distances of 70-80 pc, and tangential velocities of 140-200 km s(-1). Based on the UVW space velocities, we conclude that they most likely belong to the halo. Furthermore, the combined main-sequence and WD cooling ages are 10-11 Gyr. Along with SDSS J1102+4113, they are the oldest field WDs currently known. These three stars represent only a small fraction of the halo WD candidates in our proper motion survey, and they demonstrate that deep imaging surveys like the Pan-STARRS and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope should find many old thick disk and halo WDs that can be used to constrain the age of the Galactic thick disk and halo.