Search for brown-dwarf companions of stars

J. Sahlmann*, D. Ségransan, D. Queloz, S. Udry, N. C. Santos, M. Marmier, M. Mayor, D. Naef, F. Pepe, S. Zucker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Context. The frequency of brown-dwarf companions in close orbit around Sun-like stars is low compared to the frequency of planetary and stellar companions. There is presently no comprehensive explanation of this lack of brown-dwarf companions. Aims. By combining the orbital solutions obtained from stellar radial-velocity curves and Hipparcos astrometric measurements, we attempt to determine the orbit inclinations and therefore the masses of the orbiting companions. By determining the masses of potential brown-dwarf companions, we improve our knowledge of the companion mass-function. Methods. The radial-velocity solutions revealing potential brown-dwarf companions are obtained for stars from the CORALIE and HARPS planet-search surveys or from the literature. The best Keplerian fit to our radial-velocity measurements is found using the Levenberg-Marquardt method. The spectroscopic elements of the radial-velocity solution constrain the fit to the intermediate astrometric data of the new Hipparcos reduction. The astrometric solution and the orbit inclination are found using non-linear x2-minimisation on a two-parameter search grid. The statistical confidence of the adopted orbital solution is evaluated based on the distribution-free permutation test. Results. The discovery of nine new brown-dwarf candidates orbiting stars in the CORALIE and HARPS radial-velocity surveys is reported. New CORALIE radial velocities yielding accurate orbits of six previously-known hosts of potential brown-dwarf companions are presented. Including the literature targets, 33 hosts of potential brown-dwarf companions are examined. Employing innovative methods, we use the new reduction of the Hipparcos data to fully characterise the astrometric orbits of six objects, revealing M-dwarf companions of masses between 90 MJ and 0.52 M⊙. In addition, the masses of two companions can be restricted to the stellar domain. The companion to HD 137510 is found to be a brown dwarf. At 95% confidence, the companion of HD 190228 is also a brown dwarf. Twenty-three companions remain brown-dwarf candidates. On the basis of the CORALIE planet-search sample, we obtain an upper limit of 0.6% for the frequency of brown-dwarf companions around Sun-like stars. We find that the companion-mass distribution function increases toward the lower end of the brown-dwarf mass range, suggesting that we detect the high-mass tail of the planetary distribution. Conclusions. Our findings agree with the results of previous similar studies and confirm the pronounced paucity of brown-dwarf companions around Sun-like stars. They are affected by the Hipparcos astrometric precision and mission duration, which limits the minimum detectable companion mass, and some of the remaining candidates are probably brown-dwarf companions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA95
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Jan 2011


FundersFunder number
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung130454, 130468


    • astrometry
    • binaries: spectroscopic
    • brown dwarfs
    • stars: low-mass
    • techniques: radial velocities


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