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Published January 1, 2015 | Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

HST Rotational Spectral Mapping of Two L-type Brown Dwarfs: Variability in and out of Water Bands indicates High-altitude Haze Layers


We present time-resolved near-infrared spectroscopy of two L5 dwarfs, 2MASS J18212815+1414010 and 2MASS J15074759−1627386, observed with the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). We study the wavelength dependence of rotation-modulated flux variations between 1.1 μm and 1.7 μm. We find that the water absorption bands of the two L5 dwarfs at 1.15 μm and 1.4 μm vary at similar amplitudes as the adjacent continuum. This differs from the results of previous HST observations of L/T transition dwarfs, in which the water absorption at 1.4 μm displays variations of about half of the amplitude at other wavelengths. We find that the relative amplitude of flux variability out of the water band with respect to that in the water band shows a increasing trend from the L5 dwarfs toward the early T dwarfs. We utilize the models of Saumon & Marley and find that the observed variability of the L5 dwarfs can be explained by the presence of spatially varying high-altitude haze layers above the condensate clouds. Therefore, our observations show that the heterogeneity of haze layers—the driver of the variability—must be located at very low pressures, where even the water opacity is negligible. In the near future, the rotational spectral mapping technique could be utilized for other atomic and molecular species to probe different pressure levels in the atmospheres of brown dwarfs and exoplanets and uncover both horizontal and vertical cloud structures.

Additional Information

© The American Astronomical Society. Received 2014 October 23; accepted 2014 November 7; published 2014 December 17. This work is part of the Spitzer Cycle-9 Exploration Program Extrasolar Storms. This work is based in part on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA. Support for this work was provided by NASA through an award issued by JPL/Caltech. Support for HST GO programs 13176 and 13280.06-A was provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26555. We acknowledge the outstanding help of Patricia Royle (STScI) and the Spitzer Science Center staff, especially Nancy Silbermann, for coordinating the HST and Spitzer observations. E.B. is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

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Submitted - 1411.2911v1.pdf

Published - 2041-8205_798_1_L13.pdf


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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023