Direct radio discovery of a cold brown dwarf

H. K. Vedantham, J. R. Callingham, T. W. Shimwell, T. Dupuy, William M. J. Best, Michael C. Liu, Zhoujian Zhang, K. De, L. Lamy, P. Zarka, H. J. A. Rottgering, A. Shulevski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Magnetospheric processes seen in gas giants such as aurorae and circularly polarized cyclotron maser radio emission have been detected from some brown dwarfs. However, previous radio observations targeted known brown dwarfs discovered via their infrared emission. Here we report the discovery of BDR J1750+3809, a circularly polarized radio source detected around 144 MHz with the Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope. Follow-up near-infrared photometry and spectroscopy show that BDR J1750+3809 is a cold methane dwarf of spectral type T6.5 ± 1 at a distance of ${65}_{-8}^{+9}\,\mathrm{pc}$. The quasi-quiescent radio spectral luminosity of BDR J1750+3809 is ≈5 × 1015 erg s−1 Hz−1, which is over two orders of magnitude larger than that of the known population of comparable spectral type. This could be due to a preferential geometric alignment or an electrodynamic interaction with a close companion. In addition, as the emission is expected to occur close to the electron gyrofrequency, the magnetic field strength at the emitter site in BDR J1750+3809 is B gsim 25 G, which is comparable to planetary-scale magnetic fields. Our discovery suggests that low-frequency radio surveys can be employed to discover substellar objects that are too cold to be detected in infrared surveys.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue numberL33
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2020


  • astro-ph.EP
  • astro-ph.SR


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