15NH3 in the atmosphere of a cool brown dwarf

David Barrado*, Paul Mollière, Polychronis Patapis, Michiel Min, Pascal Tremblin, Francisco Ardevol Martinez, Niall Whiteford, Malavika Vasist, Ioannis Argyriou, Matthias Samland, Pierre Olivier Lagage, Leen Decin, Rens Waters, Thomas Henning, María Morales-Calderón, Manuel Guedel, Bart Vandenbussche, Olivier Absil, Pierre Baudoz, Anthony BoccalettiJeroen Bouwman, Christophe Cossou, Alain Coulais, Nicolas Crouzet, René Gastaud, Alistair Glasse, Adrian M. Glauser, Inga Kamp, Sarah Kendrew, Oliver Krause, Fred Lahuis, Michael Mueller, Göran Olofsson, John Pye, Daniel Rouan, Pierre Royer, Silvia Scheithauer, Ingo Waldmann, Luis Colina, Ewine F. van Dishoeck, Tom Ray, Göran Östlin, Gillian Wright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Brown dwarfs serve as ideal laboratories for studying the atmospheres of giant exoplanets on wide orbits, as the governing physical and chemical processes within them are nearly identical1,2. Understanding the formation of gas-giant planets is challenging, often involving the endeavour to link atmospheric abundance ratios, such as the carbon-to-oxygen (C/O) ratio, to formation scenarios3. However, the complexity of planet formation requires further tracers, as the unambiguous interpretation of the measured C/O ratio is fraught with complexity4. Isotope ratios, such as deuterium to hydrogen and 14N/15N, offer a promising avenue to gain further insight into this formation process, mirroring their use within the Solar System5–7. For exoplanets, only a handful of constraints on 12C/13C exist, pointing to the accretion of 13C-rich ice from beyond the CO iceline of the disks8,9. Here we report on the mid-infrared detection of the 14NH3 and 15NH3 isotopologues in the atmosphere of a cool brown dwarf with an effective temperature of 380 K in a spectrum taken with the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) of JWST. As expected, our results reveal a 14N/15N value consistent with star-like formation by gravitational collapse, demonstrating that this ratio can be accurately constrained. Because young stars and their planets should be more strongly enriched in the 15N isotope10, we expect that 15NH3 will be detectable in several cold, wide-separation exoplanets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-266
Number of pages4
Issue number7991
Early online date6-Nov-2023
Publication statusPublished - 14-Dec-2023


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