A systematic study of departures from chemical equilibrium in the atmospheres of substellar mass objects

Ivan Hubeny, Adam Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


We present a systematic study of the spectral consequences of departures from chemical equilibrium in the atmospheres of L and T dwarfs, and for even cooler dwarfs. The temperature/pressure profiles of the nonequilibrium models are fully consistent with the nonequilibrium chemistry. Our grid of nonequilibrium models includes spectra for effective temperatures from 200 to 1800 K, three surface gravities, four possible values of the coefficient of eddy diffusion in the radiative zone, and three different CO/CH 4 chemical reaction prescriptions. We also provide clear and cloudy model variants. We find, in keeping with previous studies, that there are essentially only two spectral regions where the effects of departures from chemical equilibrium can influence the predicted spectrum. These are in the M (∼4-5 μm) and N (8-14 μm) bands due to CO and NH3, respectively. The overabundance of CO translates into flux suppressions of at most ∼40% between effective temperatures of 600 and 1800 K. The effect is largest around Teff ≈ 1100 K. The underabundance of ammonia translates into flux enhancements of no more than ∼20% for the Teff range from 300 to 1800 K, with the largest effects at the lowest values of reff. The magnitude of the departure from chemical equilibrium increases with decreasing gravity, with increasing eddy diffusion coefficient, and with decreasing speed of the CO/CH4 reaction. Although these effects are modest, they lead to better fits with the measured T dwarf spectra. Furthermore, the suppression in the M band due to nonequilibrium enhancements in the CO abundance disappears below ∼500 K, and is only partial above ∼500 K, preserving the M-band flux as a useful diagnostic of cool atmospheres and maintaining its importance for searches for the cooler brown dwarfs beyond the T dwarfs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1248-1261
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 10 2007


  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: atmospheres
  • Stars: individual (Gliese 570D)
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A systematic study of departures from chemical equilibrium in the atmospheres of substellar mass objects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this