The spectra of T dwarfs. I. Near-infrared data and spectral classification

Adam J. Burgasser, J. Davy Kirkpatrick, Michael E. Brown, I. Neill Reid, Adam S. Burrows, James Liebert, Keith Matthews, John E. Gizis, Conard C. Dahn, David G. Monet, Roc M. Cutri, Michael F. Skrutskie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

280 Scopus citations


We present near-infrared spectra for a sample of T dwarfs, including 11 new discoveries made using the 2 Micron All Sky Survey. These objects are distinguished from warmer (L-type) brown dwarfs by the presence of methane absorption bands in the 1-2.5 μm spectral region. A first attempt at a near-infrared classification scheme for T dwarfs is made, based on the strengths of CH4 and H2O bands and the shapes of the 1.25, 1.6, and 2.1 μm flux peaks. Subtypes T1 V-T8 V are defined, and spectral indices useful for classification are presented. The subclasses appear to follow a decreasing Teff scale, based on the evolution of CH 4 and H2O bands and the properties of L and T dwarfs with known distances. However, we speculate that this scale is not linear with spectral type for cool dwarfs, due to the settling of dust layers below the photosphere and subsequent rapid evolution of spectral morphology around T eff ∼ 1300-1500 K. Similarities in near-infrared colors and continuity of spectral features suggest that the gap between the latest L dwarfs and earliest T dwarfs has been nearly bridged. This argument is strengthened by the possible role of CH4 as a minor absorber, shaping the K-band spectra of the latest L dwarfs. Finally, we discuss one peculiar T dwarf, 2MASS 0937 + 2931, which has very blue nearinfrared colors (J - Ks= -0.89 ± 0.24) due to suppression of the 2.1 μm peak. The feature is likely caused by enhanced collision-induced H2 absorption in a high-pressure or low-metallicity photosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-451
Number of pages31
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Infrared: stars
  • Stars: fundamental parameters
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs
  • Techniques: spectroscopic


Dive into the research topics of 'The spectra of T dwarfs. I. Near-infrared data and spectral classification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this