Astron. J., 156, 143-143 (2018/October-0)
Observing oceans in tightly packed planetary systems: perspectives from polarization modeling of the TRAPPIST-1 system.
KOPPARLA P., NATRAJ V., CRISP D., BOTT K., SWAIN M.R. and YUNG Y.L.
Abstract (from CDS):
The recently discovered TRAPPIST-1 system is exciting due to the possibility of several rocky, Earth-sized planets harboring liquid water on their surface. To assess the detectability of oceans on these planets, we model the disk-integrated phase curves and polarization signals for planets in this system for reflected starlight. We examine four cases: (1) dry planet, (2) cloud-covered planet, (3) planet with regional-scale oceans, and (4) planet with global oceans. Polarization signals are strongest for optically thin (<=0.1) atmospheres over widespread oceans, with the degree of polarization being up to 90% for a single planet or on the order of 100 parts per billion for the star-planet system. In cases where reflected light from different planets in a tightly packed system cannot be separated, observing in polarized light allows for up to a tenfold increase in star-planet contrast compared to photometric observations alone. However, polarization from other sources, such as atmospheric scattering and cloud variability, will pose major challenges to the detection of glint (specularly reflected starlight) polarization signals. Planned telescopes like LUVOIR may be capable of observing glint from Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, and if equipped with a polarimeter can significantly improve our ability to detect and study oceans on rocky exoplanets.
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
planetary systems - planets and satellites: oceans - polarization
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