Brown dwarf formation by binary disruption
Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Hicks Building, Hounsfield Road, Sheffield, S3 7RH, UK e-mail: S.Goodwin@sheffield.ac.uk
2 School of Physics & Astronomy, Cardiff University, The Queens Buildings, 5 The Parade, Cardiff, CF24 3AA, Wales, UK e-mail: A.Whitworth@astro.cf.ac.uk
Accepted: 27 February 2007
Context.The principal mechanism by which brown dwarfs form, and its relation to the formation of higher-mass (i.e. hydrogen-burning) stars, is poorly understood.
Aims.We advocate a new model for the formation of brown dwarfs.
Methods.In this model, brown dwarfs are initially binary companions, formed by gravitational fragmentation of the outer parts () of protostellar discs around low-mass hydrogen-burning stars. Most of these binaries are then gently disrupted by passing stars to create a largely single population of brown dwarfs and low-mass hydrogen-burning stars.
Results.This idea is consistent with the excess of binaries found in low-density pre-main sequence populations, like that in Taurus, where they should survive longer than in denser clusters.
Conclusions.If brown dwarfs form in this way, as companions to more massive stars, the difficulty of forming very low-mass prestellar cores is avoided. Since the disrupted binaries will tend to be those involving low-mass components and wide orbits, and since disruption will be due to the gentle tides of passing stars (rather than violent N-body interactions in small-N sub-clusters), the liberated brown dwarfs will have velocity dispersions and spatial distributions very similar to higher-mass stars, and they will be able to retain discs, and thereby to sustain accretion and outflows. Thus the problems associated with the ejection and turbulence mechanisms can be avoided. This model implies that most, possibly all, stars and brown dwarfs form in binary or multiple systems.
Key words: stars: formation / stars: binaries: general / stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs
© ESO, 2007