Sub-brown dwarf

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A size comparison between our Sun, a young sub-brown dwarf, and Jupiter. As the sub-brown dwarf ages, it will gradually cool and shrink.

A sub-brown dwarf is an astronomical object formed in the same manner as stars and brown dwarfs (i.e. through the collapse of a gas cloud) but that has a mass below the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium (about 13 Jupiter masses) and that hence is not a brown dwarf.1

Failed brown dwarfs

Sub-brown dwarfs are formed in the manner of stars, through the collapse of a gas cloud (perhaps with the help of photo-erosion) but there is no consensus amongst astronomers on whether the formation process should be taken into account when classifying an object as a planet.2 Free-floating sub-brown dwarfs can be observationally indistinguishable from rogue planets that originally formed around a star and were ejected from orbit, and on the other hand a sub-brown dwarf formed free-floating in a star cluster may get captured into orbit around a star. A definition for the term "sub-brown dwarf" was put forward by the IAU Working Group on Extra-Solar Planets (WGESP), which defined it as a free-floating body found in young star clusters below the lower mass cut-off of brown dwarfs.3

Lower mass limit

The smallest mass of gas cloud that could collapse to form a sub-brown dwarf is about 1 MJ.4 This is because to collapse by gravitational contraction requires radiating away energy as heat and this is limited by the opacity of the gas.5 A 3 MJ candidate is described in the paper.6

List of possible sub-brown dwarfs

Orbiting one or more stars

There is no consensus whether these companions of stars should be considered sub-brown dwarfs or planets.

Orbiting a brown dwarf

There is no consensus whether these companions of brown dwarfs should be considered sub-brown dwarfs or planets.


See also


  1. ^ Working Group on Extrasolar Planets – Definition of a "Planet" POSITION STATEMENT ON THE DEFINITION OF A "PLANET" (IAU)
  2. ^ What is a Planet? Debate Forces New Definition, by Robert Roy Britt, 02 November 2000
  3. ^ IAU WGESP, 'Position Statement on the Definition of "Planet"', 28 February 2003
  4. ^ Boss, Alan P.; Basri, Gibor; Kumar, Shiv S.; Liebert, James; Martín, Eduardo L.; Reipurth, Bo; Zinnecker, Hans (2003), "Nomenclature: Brown Dwarfs, Gas Giant Planets, and ?", Brown Dwarfs 211: 529, Bibcode:2003IAUS..211..529B 
  5. ^ Scholz, Alexander; Geers, Vincent; Jayawardhana, Ray; Fissel, Laura; Lee, Eve; Lafreniere, David; Tamura, Motohide (2009), "Substellar Objects in Nearby Young Clusters (Sonyc): The Bottom of the Initial Mass Function in Ngc 1333", The Astrophysical Journal 702: 805, arXiv:0907.2243v1, Bibcode:2009ApJ...702..805S, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/702/1/805 
  6. ^ Scholz, Aleks; Jayawardhana, Ray (2007), "Dusty disks at the bottom of the IMF", The Astrophysical Journal 672: L49, arXiv:0711.2510v1, Bibcode:2008ApJ...672L..49S, doi:10.1086/526340 

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