A Herschel survey of cold dust in disks around brown dwarfs and low-mass stars

Paul M. Harvey, Thomas Henning, Yao Liu, François Ménard, Christophe Pinte, Sebastian Wolf, Lucas A. Cieza, Neal J. Evans, Ilaria Pascucci

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42 Scopus citations


We report the complete photometric results from our Herschel study which is the first comprehensive program to search for far-infrared emission from cold dust around young brown dwarfs (BDs). We surveyed 50 fields containing 51 known or suspected BDs and very low mass stars that have evidence of circumstellar disks based on Spitzer photometry and/or spectroscopy. The objects with known spectral types range from M3 to M9.5. Four of the candidates were subsequently identified as extragalactic objects. Of the remaining 47 we have successfully detected 36 at 70 μm and 14 at 160 μm with signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) greater than 3, as well as several additional possible detections with low S/N. The objects exhibit a range of [24]-[70] μm colors suggesting a range in mass and/or structure of the outer disk. We present modeling of the spectral energy distributions of the sample and discuss trends visible in the data. Using two Monte Carlo radiative transfer codes we investigate disk masses and geometry. We find a very wide range in modeled total disk masses from less than 10 -6 M up to 10-3 M with a median disk mass of the order of 3 × 10-5 M , suggesting that the median ratio of disk mass to central object mass may be lower than for T Tauri stars. The disk scale heights and flaring angles, however, cover a range consistent with those seen around T Tauri stars. The host clouds in which the young BDs and low-mass stars are located span a range in estimated age from 1-3Myr to 10Myr and represent a variety of star-forming environments. No obvious dependence on cloud location or age is seen in the disk properties, though the statistical significance of this conclusion is not strong.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2012


  • brown dwarfs
  • protoplanetary disks
  • stars: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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