• brown dwarfs;
  • circumstellar matter;
  • stars: low-mass;
  • white dwarfs;
  • infrared: stars


We present a method which uses colour–colour cuts on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) photometry to select white dwarfs with hydrogen-rich (DA) atmospheres without the recourse to spectroscopy. This method results in a sample of DA white dwarfs that is 95 per cent complete at an efficiency of returning a true DA white dwarf of 62 per cent. The approach was applied to SDSS Data Release 7 for objects with and without SDSS spectroscopy. This led to 4636 spectroscopicially confirmed DA white dwarfs with g≤ 19; a ∼70 per cent increase compared to Eisenstein et al.’s 2006 sample. Including the photometric-only objects, we estimate a factor of 3 increase in DA white dwarfs. We find that the SDSS spectroscopic follow-up is 44 per cent complete for DA white dwarfs with Teff≳ 8000 K. We further cross-correlated the SDSS sample with Data Release 8 of the UKIRT (United Kingdom Infrared Telescope) Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) Large Area Survey. The spectral energy distributions (SED) of both subsets, with and without SDSS spectroscopy, were fitted with white dwarf models to determine the fraction of DA white dwarfs with low-mass stellar companions or dusty debris discs via the detection of excess near-infrared emission. From the spectroscopic sample we find that 2.0 per cent of white dwarfs have an excess consistent with a brown dwarf type companion, with a firm lower limit of 0.8 per cent. From the white dwarfs with photometry only, we find that 1.8 per cent are candidates for having brown dwarf companions. Similarly, both samples show that ∼1 per cent of white dwarfs are candidates for having a dusty debris disc.