Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Detecting Ocean Glint on Exoplanets Using Multiphase Mapping

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
January 16, 2019
Filed under
Detecting Ocean Glint on Exoplanets Using Multiphase Mapping
Ocean glint

Rotational mapping and glint are two proposed methods to directly detect liquid water on the surface of habitable exoplanets. However, false positives for both methods may prevent the unambiguous detection of exoplanet oceans.

We use simulations of Earth as an exoplanet to introduce a combination of multiwavelength, multiphase, time-series direct-imaging observations and accompanying analyses that may improve the robustness of exoplanet ocean detection by spatially mapping the ocean glint signal. As the planet rotates, the glint spot appears to “blink” as Lambertian scattering continents interrupt the specular reflection from the ocean. This manifests itself as a strong source of periodic variability in crescent-phase reflected light curves. We invert these light curves to constrain the longitudinal slice maps and apparent albedo of two surfaces at both quadrature and crescent phase. At crescent phase, the retrieved apparent albedo of ocean-bearing longitudinal slices is increased by a factor of 5, compared to the albedo at quadrature phase, due to the contribution from glint.

The land-bearing slices exhibit no significant change in apparent albedo with phase. The presence of forward-scattering clouds in our simulated observation increases the overall reflectivity toward crescent, but clouds do not correlate with any specific surfaces, thereby allowing for the phase-dependent glint effect to be interpreted as distinct from cloud scattering. Retrieving the same longitudinal map at quadrature and crescent phases may be used to tie changes in the apparent albedo with phase back to specific geographic surfaces, although this requires ideal geometries. We estimate that crescent-phase time-dependent glint detections are feasible for between 1-10 habitable zone exoplanets orbiting the nearest G, K, and M dwarfs using a space-based, high-contrast, direct-imaging telescope with a diameter >6 m.

Jacob Lustig-Yaeger, Victoria S. Meadows, Guadalupe Tovar Mendoza, Edward W. Schwieterman, Yuka Fujii, Rodrigo Luger, Tyler D. Robinson
(Submitted on 15 Jan 2019)

Comments: 21 pages, 9 figures, published in AJ
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Journal reference: AJ, 156, 301 (2018)
DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aaed3a
Cite as: arXiv:1901.05011 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1901.05011v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Jacob Lustig-Yaeger
[v1] Tue, 15 Jan 2019 19:00:03 UTC (3,072 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) πŸ––πŸ»