• binaries: spectroscopic;
  • infrared: stars;
  • stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs;
  • techniques: spectroscopic


The transition between the L dwarf and T dwarf spectral classes is one of the most remarkable along the stellar/brown dwarf main sequence, separating sources with photospheres containing mineral condensate clouds from those containing methane and ammonia gases. Unusual characteristics of this transition include a 1 µm brightening between late Land early T dwarfs observed in both parallax samples and coeval binaries; a spike in the multiplicity fraction; evidence of increased photometric variability, possibly arising from patchy cloud structures; and a delayed transition for young, planetary-mass objects. All of these features can be explained if this transition is governed by the “rapid” (nonequlibrium) rainout of clouds from the photosphere, triggered by temperature, surface gravity, metallicity and (perhaps) rotational effects. While the underlying mechanism of this rainout remains under debate, the transition is now being exploited to discover and precisely characterize tight (<1 AU) very low-mass binaries that can be used to test brown dwarf evolutionary and atmospheric theories, and resolved binaries that further constrain the properties of this remarkable transition. (© 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)