The deuterium-burning mass limit for brown dwarfs and giant planets

David S. Spiegel, Adam S. Burrows, John A. Milsom

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66 Scopus citations


There is no universally acknowledged criterion to distinguish brown dwarfs from planets. Numerous studies have used or suggested a definition based on an object's mass, taking the ∼13 Jupiter mass (MJ) limit for the ignition of deuterium. Here, we investigate various deuterium-burning masses for a range of models. We find that, while 13 MJ is generally a reasonable rule of thumb, the deuterium fusion mass depends on the helium abundance, the initial deuterium abundance, the metallicity of the model, and on what fraction of an object's initial deuterium abundance must combust in order for the object to qualify as having burned deuterium. Even though, for most proto-brown dwarf conditions, 50% of the initial deuterium will burn if the object's mass is ∼(13.0 ± 0.8) MJ, the full range of possibilities is significantly broader. For models ranging from zero-metallicity to more than three times solar metallicity, the deuterium-burning mass ranges from ∼11.0 MJ (for three times solar metallicity, 10% of initial deuterium burned) to ∼16.3 MJ(for zero metallicity, 90% of initial deuterium burned).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Brown dwarfs-radiative transfer-stars
  • Evolution
  • Low-mass-stars


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