Methane in Analogs of Young Directly Imaged Exoplanets

Brittany E. Miles, Andrew J. Skemer, Travis S. Barman, Katelyn N. Allers, Jordan M. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We present detections of methane in R ∼ 1300, L-band spectra of VHS 1256 b and PSO 318.5, two low-gravity, red, late L dwarfs that share the same colors as the HR 8799 planets. These spectra reveal shallow methane features, which indicate VHS 1256 b and PSO 318.5 have photospheres that are out of chemical equilibrium. Directly imaged exoplanets usually have redder near-infrared colors than the field-age population of brown dwarfs on a color-magnitude diagram. These objects along the L-to-T transition show reduced methane absorption and evidence of photospheric clouds. Compared to the H- and K-bands, L-band (3 μm-4 μm) spectroscopy provides stronger constraints on the methane abundances of brown dwarfs and directly imaged exoplanets that have similar effective temperatures to L-to-T transition objects. When combined with near-infrared spectra, the L-band extends our conventional wavelength coverage, increasing our understanding of atmospheric cloud structure. Our model comparisons show that relatively strong vertical mixing and photospheric clouds can explain the molecular absorption features and continua of VHS 1256 b and PSO 318.5. We also discuss the implications of this work for future exoplanet-focused instruments and observations with the James Webb Space Telescope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2018


  • brown dwarfs
  • planets and satellites: atmospheres
  • planets and satellites: gaseous planets
  • stars: individual (VHS J125601.92125723.9b PSO J318.533822.8603)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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