Low mass companions to nearby stars: Spectral classification and its relation to the stellar/substellar break

J. Davy Kirkpatrick, Donald W. Mccarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


The relationship between mass and spectral class for main-sequence stars has never been obtained for dwarfs cooler than M6; currently, the true nature of objects classified as M7, M8, M9, or later (be they stellar or substellar) is not known. In this paper, spectral types for the components in five low mass binary systems are estimated based on previously published infrared speckle measurements, red/ infrared photometry, and parallax data, together with newly acquired high signal-to-noise composite spectra of the systems and revised magnitude difference relations for M dwarfs. For two of these binaries, the secondary has a smaller mass (< 0.09 script M sign) than any object having a dynamically measured mass and a known spectral type, thus extending the spectral class/mass relation to lower masses than has previously been possible. Data from the higher mass components (0.09script M sign≤script M sign≤0.40script M sign) are consistent with earlier results; the two lowest mass objects - though having mass errors which could place them on either side of the M dwarf/brown dwarf dividing line (script M sign ≈0.08script M sign) - are found to have spectral types no cooler than M6.5 V. An extrapolation of the updated spectral class/mass relation to the hydrogen-burning limit suggests that objects of type M7 and later may be substellar. Direct confirmation of this awaits the discovery of a close, very late-type binary for which dynamical masses can be measured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-349
Number of pages17
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Low mass companions to nearby stars: Spectral classification and its relation to the stellar/substellar break'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this