Astrophysics and Space Science

, Volume 217, Issue 1–2, pp 69–76 | Cite as

The search for brown dwarfs with infrared surveys

  • T. J. Chester
II. Low Mass Stars and Main Sequence Stars


I compute the maximum number of observable brown dwarfs for various infrared surveys by combining the maximum possible Oort limit (0.1 “missing” Mpc−3 with all possible brown dwarf mass and age distributions. This approach shows what limits will be placed on the contribution of brown dwarfs to any possible “missing mass” if no brown dwarfs are observed. I consider brown dwarfs with masses of 0.01—0.08 M and ages of 109—1010 years.

The full range of predicted numbers of brown dwarfs above ∼ 6 times the noise of each of the below surveys is: IRAS Point Source Catalog 0.02—6 IRAS Faint Source Catalog |b| > 10° 0.05—16 ISO (2 week 12µm survey) 0.15—80 SIRTF (2 week 12µm survey) 2.50—1600 WIRE (4 month 12µm survey) 21.80—6000 DENIS (half sky) |b| > 10° 0.00—2000 2MASS (full sky) |b| > 10° 0.00—8000

A failure to find brown dwarfs in the IRAS FSC would just barely rule out about half of the mass—age range for Oort limit total masses. A failure to find brown dwarfs in 2MASS/DENIS would rule out roughly the same mass—age range, but would set a limit of 0.1—0.01 times the Oort mass in that mass—age region. No limits would be set for the other half of the mass—age range since both IRAS and 2MASS/DENIS have insufficient sensitivity for brown dwarfs with T < 750 K.

A failure to find brown dwarfs with ISO would rule out almost all of the mass—age range for Oort limit total masses, but would not set a significantly lower limit to the brown dwarf mass limit. A failure to find brown dwarfs with SIRTF or WIRE would rule out the entire mass—age range for Oort limit total masses and set an upper limit of 0.1—0.001 times the Oort mass.

To date, about 18% of the IRAS FSC has been searched down to 6σ, and no brown dwarfs have been found. This sets a 95% upper limit of 3 in 18% of the sky, or 13 in the entire FSC for |b| > 10°. To begin to set useful limits from 2MASS or DENIS, approximately 400 square degrees needs to be analyzed. To date, only a few square degrees of results from the 2MASS prototype camera have been examined, with no brown dwarfs found so far.

Key words

Brown Dwarfs Missing Mass 2MASS Near-infrared DENIS 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. J. Chester
    • 1
  1. 1.Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyUSA

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