Cloud busting: enstatite and quartz clouds in the atmosphere of 2M2224-0158

Ben Burningham, Jacqueline K. Faherty, Eileen C. Gonzales, Mark S. Marley, Channon Visscher, Roxana Lupu, Joesphine Gaarn, Michelle Fabienne Bieger, Richard Freedman, Didier Saumon

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We present the most detailed data-driven exploration of cloud opacity in a substellar object to-date. We have tested over 60 combinations of cloud composition and structure, particle size distribution, scattering model, and gas phase composition assumptions against archival $1-15 {\rm \mu m}$ spectroscopy for the unusually red L4.5~dwarf 2MASSW~J2224438-015852 using the Brewster retrieval framework. We find that, within our framework, a model that includes enstatite and quartz cloud layers at shallow pressures, combined with a deep iron cloud deck fits the data best. This models assumes a Hansen distribution for particle sizes for each cloud, and Mie scattering. We retrieved particle effective radii of $\log_{10} a {\rm (\mu m)} = -1.41^{+0.18}_{-0.17}$ for enstatite, $-0.44^{+0.04}_{-0.20}$ for quartz, and $-0.77^{+0.05}_{-0.06}$ for iron. Our inferred cloud column densities suggest ${\rm (Mg/Si)} = 0.69^{+0.06}_{-0.08}$ if there are no other sinks for magnesium or silicon. Models that include forsterite alongside, or in place of, these cloud species are strongly rejected in favour of the above combination. We estimate a radius of $0.75 \pm 0.02$ Rjup, which is considerably smaller than predicted by evolutionary models for a field age object with the luminosity of 2M2224-0158. Models which assume vertically constant gas fractions are consistently preferred over models that assume thermochemical equilibrium. From our retrieved gas fractions we infer ${\rm [M/H]} = +0.38^{+0.07}_{-0.06}$ and ${\rm C/O} = 0.83^{+0.06}_{-0.07}$. Both these values are towards the upper end of the stellar distribution in the Solar neighbourhood, and are mutually consistent in this context. A composition toward the extremes of the local distribution is consistent with this target being an outlier in the ultracool dwarf population.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberstab1361
Number of pages21
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date18 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 May 2021


  • astro-ph.SR
  • astro-ph.EP


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