The theory of brown dwarfs and extrasolar giant planets

Adam S. Burrows, W. B. Hubbard, J. I. Lunine, James Liebert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

627 Scopus citations


Straddling the traditional realms of the planets and the stars, objects below the edge of the main sequence have such unique properties, and are being discovered in such quantities, that one can rightly claim that a new field at the interface of planetary science and astronomy is being born. This article extends the previous review of Burrows and Liebert (1993) and describes the essential elements of the theory of brown dwarfs and giant planets. It discusses their evolution, atmospheric composition, and spectra, including the new spectroscopic classes L and T. Particular topics which are important for an understanding of the spectral properties include the effects of condensates, clouds, molecular abundances, and atomic opacities. Moreover, it discusses the distinctive features of these extrasolar giant planets that are irradiated by a central primary, in particular, their reflection spectra, albedos, and transits. Overall, the theory explains the basic systematics of substellar-mass objects over three orders of magnitude in mass and age, and a factor of 30 in temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-765
Number of pages47
JournalReviews of Modern Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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