Brown Dwarf Formation: Theory

  • Anthony P. WhitworthEmail author
Reference work entry


We rehearse the physical and theoretical considerations that define the nature of brown dwarfs, in particular the maximum mass for a brown dwarf (set by the hydrogen-burning limit) and the minimum mass for a brown dwarf (set by the opacity limit). We then review the range of mechanisms that have been invoked to explain the formation of brown dwarfs and their statistical properties. These include turbulent fragmentation, fragmentation of filaments and discs, dynamical ejection of stellar embryos, and photoerosion. The primary contenders would seem to be turbulent fragmentation and disc fragmentation, and the observations needed to evaluate their relative importance may soon be available.


Brown dwarfs: formation Gravitational collapse Gravitational fragmentation Protostellar discs Stars: binary systems Stars: formation 



APW gratefully acknowledges the support of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, through Consolidated Grant ST/K00926/1.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Physics and AstronomyCardiff UniversityWalesUK

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