The properties of young brown dwarfs
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The Properties of Young Brown Dwarfs. John D. Shaw. What’s a Brown Dwarf?. M Dwarf 75 M Jup 2,700 K. L Dwarf 65 M Jup 1700 K. T Dwarf 30 M Jup 900 K. Jupiter 180 K. The Sun 1050 M Jup 5,800 K. Brown Dwarfs. Artist Rendition by R. Hurt. What is a Brown Dwarf?.

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What’s a Brown Dwarf?

M Dwarf

75 MJup

2,700 K

L Dwarf

65 MJup

1700 K

T Dwarf

30 MJup

900 K


180 K

The Sun

1050 MJup

5,800 K

Brown Dwarfs

Artist Rendition by R. Hurt

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What is a Brown Dwarf?

  • Not enough mass to sustain proton-proton Nuclear Fusion in its core like the sun.

  • Gravitational Potential energy from the gas coalescing to form brown dwarf becomes heat.

  • Gas pressure supports the brown dwarf.

  • As the gas cools it emits light (mostly infrared).

  • Much dimmer than the sun or other stars.

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What study Brown Dwarfs?

  • Limits of conditions for fusion.

  • Theory suggest there should be large numbers of the objects – how do we find them?

  • Do they develop like stars with planetary systems?

    • How many?

    • What range of sizes?

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CTIO at night


Our primary observatory.

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Search Method

  • Observe same area of sky 5 – 10 years apart with wide surveys.

  • Look for movement!

  • Process includes writing software to resize and align images.

  • Then scan the images (automatically and manually) for noticeable differences.

  • This process is partially complete.

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Follow Up

  • Use other telescopes to observe the candidate objects at different wavelengths to determine their temperatures

  • If the objects are cool enough follow up with spectroscopic observations (from ground and space based telescopes)

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Spectra – Confirmed Brown Dwarf!


Dashed line is M-dwarf of same spectral type. Arrow indicates presence of lithium

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  • Find young brown dwarfs based on photometric temperature.

  • Look for excess in Infrared (5 -10 μm) spectrum to indicate dust in a disk surrounding the brown dwarf.

  • Determine composition, size and dynamics of disk.

  • Hope to find system(s) with planet formation in disk.

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