Methane Emission From a Cool Brown Dwarf

Jacqueline K. Faherty, Ben Burningham, Jonathan Gagné, Genaro Suárez, Johanna M. Vos, Sherelyn Alejandro Merchan, Caroline V. Morley, Melanie Rowland, Brianna Lacy, Rocio Kiman, Dan Caselden, J. Davy Kirkpatrick, Aaron Meisner, Adam C. Schneider, Marc Jason Kuchner, Daniella Bardalez-Gagliuffi, Charles A. Beichman, Peter Eisenhardt, Christopher R. Gelino, Ehsan Gharib-NezhadEileen Gonzales, Federico Marocco, Austin James Rothermich, Niall Whiteford

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Abstract

Beyond our Solar System, aurorae have been inferred from radio observations of isolated brown dwarfs 1,2. Within our Solar System, giant planets have auroral emission with signatures across the electromagnetic spectrum including infrared emission of H 3 + and methane. Isolated brown dwarfs with auroral signatures in the radio have been searched for corresponding infrared features, but only null detections have been reported 3. CWISEP J193518.59-154620.3. (W1935 for short) is an isolated brown dwarf with a temperature of approximately 482 K. Here we report James Webb Space Telescope observations of strong methane emission from W1935 at 3.326 μm. Atmospheric modelling leads us to conclude that a temperature inversion of approximately 300 K centred at 1–10 mbar replicates the feature. This represents an atmospheric temperature inversion for a Jupiter-like atmosphere without irradiation from a host star. A plausible explanation for the strong inversion is heating by auroral processes, although other internal and external dynamical processes cannot be ruled out. The best-fitting model rules out the contribution of H 3 + emission, which is prominent in Solar System gas giants. However, this is consistent with rapid destruction of H 3 + at the higher pressure where the W1935 emission originates 4.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511–514
Number of pages18
JournalNature
Volume628
Early online date17 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2024

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