Atmospheric Retrieval of L Dwarfs: Benchmarking Results and Characterizing the Young Planetary Mass Companion HD 106906 b in the Near-infrared

Arthur D. Adams, Michael R. Meyer, Alex R. Howe, Ben Burningham, Sebastian Daemgen, Jonathan Fortney, Mike Line, Mark Marley, Sascha P. Quanz, Kamen Todorov

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We present model constraints on the atmospheric structure of HD 106906 b, a planetary-mass companion orbiting at a ∼700 au projected separation around a 15 Myr old stellar binary, using the APOLLO retrieval code on spectral data spanning 1.1–2.5 μm. C/O ratios can provide evidence for companion formation pathways, as such pathways are ambiguous both at wide separations and at star-to-companion mass ratios in the overlap between the distributions of planets and brown dwarfs. We benchmark our code against an existing retrieval of the field L dwarf 2MASSW J2224–0158, returning a C/O ratio consistent with previous fits to the same JHK s data, but disagreeing in the thermal structure, cloud properties, and atmospheric scale height. For HD 106906 b, we retrieve C/O =0.53−0.25+0.15 , consistent with the C/O ratios expected for HD 106906's stellar association and therefore consistent with a stellar-like formation for the companion. We find abundances of H2O and CO near chemical equilibrium values for a solar metallicity but a surface gravity lower than expected, as well as a thermal profile with sharp transitions in the temperature gradient. Despite high signal-to-noise ratio and spectral resolution, more accurate constraints necessitate data across a broader wavelength range. This work serves as preparation for subsequent retrievals in the era of JWST, as JWST's spectral range provides a promising opportunity to resolve difficulties in fitting low-gravity L dwarfs and also underscores the need for simultaneous comparative retrievals on L-dwarf companions with multiple retrieval codes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number192
Pages (from-to)166
Number of pages5
JournalThe Astronomical Journal
Issue number5
Early online date13 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2023


  • Exoplanet structure
  • Exoplanet atmospheric composition
  • Exoplanet astronomy
  • Exoplanet atmospheres
  • L dwarfs
  • Extrasolar gaseous planets
  • Planetary atmospheres
  • Atmospheric science
  • Exoplanet formation


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