Keck imaging of binary L dwarfs

D. W. Koerner, J. Davy Kirkpatrick, M. W. McElwain, N. R. Bonaventura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


We present Keck near-infrared imaging of three binary L dwarf systems, all of which are likely to be substellar. Two are lithium dwarfs, and a third exhibits an L7 spectral type, making it the coolest binary known to date. All have component flux ratios near 1 and projected physical separations between 5 and 10 AU, assuming distances of 18-26 pc from recent measurements of trigonometric parallax. These surprisingly similar binaries represent the sole detections of companions in 10 L dwarf systems that were analyzed in the preliminary phase of a much larger dual-epoch imaging survey. The detection rate prompts us to speculate that binary companions to L dwarfs are common, that similar-mass systems predominate, and that their distribution peaks at radial distances in accord both with M dwarf binaries and with the radial location of Jovian planets in our own solar system. To fully establish these conjectures against doubts raised by biases inherent in this small preliminary survey, however, will require quantitative analysis of a larger volume-limited sample that has been observed with high resolution and dynamic range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L25-L28
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - Nov 20 1999


  • Binaries: spectroscopic
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Planetary systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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