Atmospheric parameters of field L and T dwarfs

Michael C. Cushing, Mark S. Marley, D. Saumon, Brandon C. Kelly, William D. Vacca, John T. Rayner, Richard S. Freedman, Katharina Lodders, Thomas L. Roellig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


We present an analysis of the 0.95-14.5 μm spectral energy distributions of nine field ultracool dwarfs with spectral types ranging from L1 to T4.5. Effective temperatures, gravities, and condensate cloud sedimentation efficiencies are derived by comparing the data to synthetic spectra computed from atmospheric models that self-consistently include the formation of condensate clouds. Overall, the model spectra fit the data well, although the agreement at some wavelengths remains poor due to remaining inadequacies in the models. Derived effective temperatures decrease steadily through the L1-T4.5 spectral types, and we confirm that the effective temperatures of ultracool dwarfs at the L/T transition are nearly constant, decreasing by only ∼200 K from spectral types L7.5 to T4.5. The condensate cloud properties vary significantly among the L dwarfs in our sample, ranging from very thick clouds to relatively thin clouds with no particular trend with spectral type. The two objects in our sample with very red J - Ks colors are, however, best fitted with synthetic spectra that have thick clouds, which hints at a possible correlation between the near-infrared colors of L dwarfs and the condensate cloud properties. The fits to the two T dwarfs in our sample (T2 and T4.5 ) also suggest that the clouds become thinner in this spectral class, in agreement with previous studies. Restricting the fits to narrower wavelength ranges (i.e., individual photometric bands) almost always yields excellent agreement between the data and models. Limitations in our knowledge of the opacities of key absorbers such as FeH, VO, and CH4 at certain wave-lengths remain obvious, however. The effective temperatures obtained by fitting the narrower wavelength ranges can show a large scatter compared to the values derived by fitting the full spectral energy distributions; deviations are typically ∼200 K and, in the worst cases, up to 700 K.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1372-1395
Number of pages24
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Infrared: stars
  • Radiative transfer
  • Stars: fundamental parameters
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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