Luhman 16

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Coordinates: Sky map 10h 49m 18.723s, −53° 19′ 09.86″

Luhman 16
Luhman 16
The Luhman 16 binary brown dwarf is the yellow disc at the center of this 7 January 2010 WISE image. The individual brown dwarfs are not resolved.
Observation data
Epoch J2000[1]      Equinox J2000[1]
Constellation Vela
Right ascension 10h 49m 18.723s[1]
Declination −53° 19′ 09.86″[1]
Spectral type A: L8±1[2]
B: T1±2[3]
Apparent magnitude (i (DENIS filter system)) 14.94±0.03[2]
Apparent magnitude (J (2MASS filter system)) 10.73±0.03[2]
Apparent magnitude (J (DENIS filter system)) 10.68±0.05[2]
Apparent magnitude (H (2MASS filter system)) 9.56±0.03[2]
Apparent magnitude (KS (2MASS filter system)) 8.84±0.02[2]
Apparent magnitude (KS (DENIS filter system)) 8.87±0.08[2]
Proper motion (μ) RA: -2763 ± 2.7[4] mas/yr
Dec.: 363 ± 4.1[4] mas/yr
Parallax (π) 495 ± 4.6[4] mas
Distance 6.59 ± 0.06 ly
(2.02 ± 0.02 pc)
Period (P) ~25 yr
Luhman 16A
Mass 0.04–0.05 M
Temperature 1350 K
Luhman 16B
Mass 0.03–0.05 M
Temperature 1210 K
Position (relative to A)[2]
Component B
Angular distance 1.5
Observed separation
3 AU
Other designations
Whole system: LUH 16,[1] Luhman-WISE 1,[1] WISE J104915.57-531906.1,[2] WISE J104915.57-531906,[1] WISE J1049-5319,[1] WISE 1049-5319,[1] WISE 1049-53,[1] WISE J1049,[1] WISE 1049,[1] DENIS-P J104919.0-531910,[6] 2MASS J10491891-5319100,[6] IRAS Z10473-5303,[1] AKARI J1049166-531907,[1] GSC2.2 S11132026703,[1] GSC2.3 S4BM006703[1]

Component A: Luhman 16A[1]

Component B: Luhman 16B[1]

Luhman 16 (WISE 1049-5319, WISE J104915.57–531906.1) is a binary brown-dwarf system in the southern constellation Vela at a distance of approximately 6.6 light-years (2.0 pc) from the Sun. They are the closest known brown dwarfs, and the closest system found since the measurement of the proper motion of Barnard's Star in 1916.[7][8] The primary is of spectral type L8±1[2] and the secondary of type T1±2[3] (and is hence near the L–T transition). Luhman 16 A and B orbit each other at a distance of about 3 AU[2] with an orbital period of approximately 25 years.[2]


WISE image of Luhman 16. In GMOS image in the inset, it is resolved into a pair.

The brown dwarfs were discovered by Kevin Luhman, astronomer from Pennsylvania State University and a researcher in Penn State's Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds,[7] from images made by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) Earth-orbiting satelliteNASA infrared-wavelength 40 cm (16 in) space telescope, a mission that lasted from December 2009 to February 2011; the discovery images were taken from January 2010 to January 2011, and the discovery was announced in 2013 (the pair are the only two objects announced in the discovery paper). The system was found by comparing WISE images at different epochs to reveal objects that have high proper motions.[7][2]

Luhman 16 appears in the sky close to the galactic plane which is densely populated by stars; the abundance of light sources makes it difficult to spot faint objects. This explains why an object so near to the Sun was not discovered in earlier searches.[2]

Discovery of companion[edit]

The second component of the system was discovered also by Luhman in 2013, and was announced in the same article as the primary. Its discovery image in the i-band was taken on the night of 23 February 2013 with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) at the Gemini South telescope, Chile. The components of the system were resolved with an angular distance of 1.5 arcsecond, corresponding to a projected separation of 3 AU; and magnitude difference of 0.45 mag.[2]


Although the system was first found on images taken by WISE in 2010–2011, afterwards it was precovered from the Digitized Sky Survey (DSS) (1978 (IR), 1992 (red)),[2] Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) (1983),[1] ESO Schmidt (Red), 1984),[1] Guide Star Catalog (GCS) (1995),[1] Deep Near-Infrared Survey of the Southern Sky (DENIS) (1999),[2] Two Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS) (1999),[2] AKARI satellite (2007).[1]

On the ESO Schmidt Telescope image, taken in 1984, the source looks elongated with position angle 138°.[1] The similarity of this position angle with that of the resolved pair in the GMOS image (epoch 2013) in Fig. 1 of Luhman (2013) may suggest that the time period between 1984 and 2013 may be close to the orbital period of the system (not far from original orbital period estimate by Luhman (2013)[2]).[1]

Possible detection of a planetary-mass object[edit]

In December 2013, perturbations of the orbital motions in the system were detected using astrometric measurements. The period of the possible companion is about a few months, indicating that it orbits around one of the brown dwarfs. This companion is expected to be below the brown-dwarf mass limit, because it would otherwise have been detected through direct imaging. High-accuracy radial-velocity measurements are expected to be taken to confirm the existence of the planet.[4]


Eric E. Mamajek proposed the name Luhman 16 for the system, hence the components could be called Luhman 16A and Luhman 16B. The name originates from the frequently updated Washington Double Star Catalog (WDS): Luhman has already published several new binary star discoveries which are compiled in WDS with discovery identifier "LUH". The WDS catalog now lists this system with the identifier 10493-5319 and discoverer designation LUH 16.[9]

The rationale is that Luhman 16 is easier than WISE J104915.57-531906 and that "it seems silly to call this object by a 22-character name (space included)".[1][note 1] The "phone number names" also include WISE J1049-5319 and WISE 1049-5319, and “Luhman-WISE 1” was also proposed.[1]

As a binary object it is also called Luhman 16AB.

Distance and proper motion[edit]

The trigonometric parallax of Luhman 16, published in 2014 by Boffin et al., is 0.495±0.0046 arcsec, corresponding to a distance 2.020±0.019 pc, or 6.59±0.06 ly.[4] The proper motion published in the same paper is about 2.8″/year, which is relatively large due to the proximity of Luhman 16.[4]

Luhman 16 distance estimates

Source Parallax, mas Distance, pc Distance, ly Ref.
Luhman (2013) 496 ± 37 2.02+0.16
6.6 ± 0.5 [2]
Boffin et al. (2014) 495 ± 4.6 2.02 ± 0.019 6.59 ± 0.06 [4]

Non-trigonometric distance estimates are marked in italic. The best estimate is marked in bold.

Luhman 16 proper motion estimates

Source μ,
P. A.,
Luhman (2013) 2782 277 −2759 ± 6 354 ± 6 [2]
Boffin et al. (2014) 2787 277 -2763 ± 2.7 363 ± 4.1 [4]

The most accurate estimates are marked in bold.


Stars closest to the Sun, including WISE 1049-5319 (or Luhman 16) (25 April 2014).[10]

Currently Luhman 16 is the third closest known star/brown-dwarf system to the Sun after the triple Alpha Centauri system (4.37 ly) and Barnard's Star (5.98 ly), pushing Wolf 359 (7.78 ly) to the fifth place, along with the discovery of WISE 0855–0714. Also it holds several records: the nearest brown dwarf, the nearest L-type dwarf, and possibly the nearest T-type dwarf (if component B is of T-type).

Proximity to Alpha Centauri[edit]

Luhman 16 is also the nearest known star/brown-dwarf system to Alpha Centauri, located 3.63 light-years (1.11 pc) from it.[note 2] This is due to both systems being located in neighboring constellations, in the same part of the sky as seen from Earth but Luhman 16 is a bit farther away. Before the discovery of Luhman 16, the Solar System was the nearest known system to Alpha Centauri.


On 5 May 2013, Crossfield, et al., used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) to directly observe the Luhman 16 system for five hours, the equivalent of a full rotation of Luhman 16B.[11][12] A study by Gillon, et al., found that Luhman 16B exhibited uneven surface illumination during its rotation.[13] The research by Crossfield, et al., confirmed this observation, finding a large, dark region at the middle latitudes, a bright area near its upper pole, and mottled illumination elsewhere. They suggest this variant illumination indicates "patchy global clouds", where darker areas represent thick clouds and brighter areas are holes in the cloud layer permitting light from the interior.[11][12] Gillon, et al., determined that Luhman 16B's illumination patterns change rapidly, on a day-to-day basis.[13]

Although Luhman 16A has also been observed in the same fashion as 16B, no similar variance in illumination was found.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Actually, 24 characters (space included), because in Mamajek (2013) the designation WISE J104915.57-531906 with two omitted last characters ".1" is used, whereas in Luhman (2013) the designation is WISE J104915.57-531906.1, which is of the correct format for WISE identifiers.
  2. ^ Assuming parallax of Luhman 16 from its discovery paper Luhman (2013): 496 mas.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Mamajek, Eric E. (2013). "On the Nearby Binary Brown Dwarf WISE J104915.57-531906.1 (Luhman 16)". arXiv:1303.5345 [astro-ph.SR].
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Luhman, K. L. (2013). "Discovery of a Binary Brown Dwarf at 2 Parsecs from the Sun". arXiv:1303.2401 [astro-ph.GA].
  3. ^ a b Burgasser, Adam J.; Sheppard, Scott S.; Luhman, K. L. (2013). "Resolved Near-Infrared Spectroscopy of WISE J104915.57-531906.1AB: A Flux-Reversal Binary at the L dwarf/T dwarf Transition". arXiv:1303.7283 [astro-ph.SR].
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Boffin, Henri M. J.; Pourbaix, D.; Mužić, K.; Ivanov, V.D.; Kurtev, R.; Beletsky, Y.; Mehner, A.; Berger, J. P.; Girard, J. H.; Mawet, D. (January 2014). "Possible astrometric discovery of a substellar companion to the closest binary brown dwarf system WISE J104915.57-531906.1". Astronomy and Astrophysics 561: L4. arXiv:1312.1303. Bibcode:2014A&A...561L...4B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201322975. 
  5. ^ Kniazev, A. Y.; Vaisanen, P.; Mužić, K.; Mehner, A.; Boffin, H. M. J. et al. (June 2013). "Characterization of the Nearby L/T Binary Brown Dwarf WISE J104915.57-531906.1 at 2 Parsecs from the Sun". The Astrophysical Journal 770 (2): 124. arXiv:1303.7171. Bibcode:2013ApJ...770..124K. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/770/2/124. 
  6. ^ a b "WISE J104915.57-531906.1 -- Brown Dwarf (M<0.08solMass)". SIMBAD. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c Kennedy, Barbara K. (11 March 2013). "The Closest Star System Found in a Century". Pennsylvania State University Eberly College of Science. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Plait, Phil (11 March 2013). "Howdy, Neighbor! New Twin Stars Are Third Closest to the Sun". Slate. Bad Astronomy. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "USNO Double Star Catalogs: Notes". Washington Double Star Catalog. Retrieved 20 September 2013. 
  10. ^ Clavin, Whitney; Harrington, J.D. (25 April 2014). "NASA's Spitzer and WISE Telescopes Find Close, Cold Neighbor of Sun". NASA. Archived from the original on 2014-04-25. Retrieved 2014-04-25. 
  11. ^ a b Crossfield, Ian; Hook, Richard (29 January 2014). "First Weather Map of Brown Dwarf". European Southern Observatory. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Crossfield, I. J. M.; Biller, B.; Schlieder, J. E.; Deacon, N. R.; Bonnefoy, M. et al. (30 January 2014). "A Global Cloud Map of the Nearest Known Brown Dwarf". Nature 505 (7485): 654–656. arXiv:1401.8145. Bibcode:2014Natur.505..654C. doi:10.1038/nature12955. 
  13. ^ a b c Gillon, M.; Triaud, A. H. M. J.; Jehin, E.; Delrez, L.; Opitom, C. et al. (July 2013). "Fast-evolving weather for the coolest of our two new substellar neighbours". Astronomy and Astrophysics 555: L5. arXiv:1304.0481. Bibcode:2013A&A...555L...5G. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201321620. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Burgasser, A. J.; Faherty, J.; Beletsky, Y.; Plavchan, P.; Gillon, M. et al. (2013). "Luhman 16AB: A Remarkable, Variable L/T Transition Binary 2 pc from the Sun". Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana 84 (4): 1017. arXiv:1307.6916. Bibcode:2013MmSAI..84.1017B.  See also related slideshow.

External links[edit]