Spitzer IRAC photometry of M, L, and T dwarfs

Brian M. Patten, John R. Stauffer, Adam S. Burrows, Massimo Marengo, Joseph L. Hora, Kevin L. Luhman, Sarah M. Sonnett, Todd J. Henry, Deepak Raghavan, S. Thomas Megeath, James Liebert, Giovanni G. Fazio

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160 Scopus citations


We present the results of a program to acquire photometry for 86 late M, L, and T dwarfs using the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) on the Spitzer Space Telescope. We examine the behavior of these cool dwarfs in various color-color and color-magnitude diagrams composed of near-IR and IRAC data. The T dwarfs exhibit the most distinctive positions in these diagrams. In M5.8 versus [5.8]-[8.0], the IRAC data for T dwarfs are not monotonic in either magnitude or color, giving the clearest indication yet that the T dwarfs are not a one-parameter family in Teff. Because metallicity does not vary enough in the solar neighborhood to act as the second parameter, the most likely candidate then is gravity, which in turn translates to mass. Among objects with similar spectral type, the range of mass suggested by our sample is about a factor of 5 (∼70MJ to ∼15MJ), with the less massive objects making up the younger members of the sample. We also find the IRAC 4.5 μm fluxes to be lower than expected, from which we infer a stronger CO fundamental band at ∼4.67 μm. This suggests that equilibrium CH 4/CO chemistry underestimates the abundance of CO in T dwarf atmospheres, confirming earlier results based on M-band observations from the ground. In combining IRAC photometry with near-IR JHK photometry and parallax data, we find the combination of KS, IRAC 3.6 μm, and 4.5 μm bands to provide the best color-color discrimination for a wide range of M, L, and T dwarfs. Also noteworthy is the MKS versus KS-[4.5] relation, which shows a smooth progression over spectral type, and splits the M, L, and T types cleanly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-516
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Nov 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Infrared: stars
  • Stars: fundamental parameters
  • Stars: late-type
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs


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