The atomic and molecular content of disks around very low-mass stars and brown dwarfs

I. Pascucci, G. Herczeg, J. S. Carr, S. Bruderer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


There is growing observational evidence that disk evolution is stellar-mass-dependent. Here, we show that these dependencies extend to the atomic and molecular content of disk atmospheres. We analyze a unique dataset of high-resolution Spitzer/IRS spectra from eight very low mass star and brown dwarf disks. We report the first detections of Ne+, H2, CO2, and tentative detections of H2O toward these faint and low-mass disks. Two of our [Ne II] 12.81 μm emission lines likely trace the hot (≥5000 K) disk surface irradiated by X-ray photons from the central stellar/sub-stellar object. The H2 S(2) and S(1) fluxes are consistent with arising below the fully or partially ionized surface traced by the [Ne II] emission in gas at 600 K. We confirm the higher C2H 2/HCN flux and column density ratio in brown dwarf disks previously noted from low-resolution IRS spectra. Our high-resolution spectra also show that the HCN/H2O fluxes of brown dwarf disks are on average higher than those of T Tauri disks. Our LTE modeling hints that this difference extends to column density ratios if H2O lines trace warm ≥600 K disk gas. These trends suggest that the inner regions of brown dwarf disks have a lower O/C ratio than those of T Tauri disks, which may result from a more efficient formation of non-migrating icy planetesimals. An O/C = 1, as inferred from our analysis, would have profound implications on the bulk composition of rocky planets that can form around very low mass stars and brown dwarfs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number178
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2013


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • brown dwarfs
  • protoplanetary disks
  • stars: low-mass
  • stars: pre-main Sequence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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