Self-consistent Models of Y Dwarf Atmospheres with Water Clouds and Disequilibrium Chemistry

Brianna Lacy, Adam Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Y dwarfs are the coolest spectral class of brown dwarf. They have effective temperatures less than 500 K, with the coolest detection as low as ∼250 K. They make up the low-mass tail of the star formation process, and are a valuable analog to the atmospheres of giant gaseous exoplanets in a temperature range that is difficult to observe. Understanding Y dwarf atmospheric compositions and processes will thus deepen our understanding of planet and star formation and provide a stepping stone toward characterizing cool exoplanets. Their spectra are shaped predominantly by gaseous water, methane, and ammonia. At the warmer end of the Y-dwarf temperature range, spectral signatures of disequilibrium carbon monoxide have been observed. Cooler Y dwarfs could host water clouds in their atmospheres. JWST spectral observations are anticipated to provide an unprecedented level of detail for these objects, and yet published self-consistent model grids do not accurately replicate even the existing Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observations. In this work, we present a new suite of 1D radiative-convective equilibrium models to aid in the characterization of Y-dwarf atmospheres and spectra. We compute clear, cloudy, equilibrium chemistry and disequilibrium chemistry models, providing a comprehensive suite of models in support of the impending JWST era of panchromatic Y-dwarf characterization. Comparing these models against current observations, we find that disequilibrium CH4-CO and NH3-N2 chemistry and the presence of water clouds can bring models and observations into better, though still not complete, agreement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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