- Status Report
- December 8, 2023
Spectropolarimetry as a Means to Address Cloud Composition and Habitability for a Cloudy Exoplanetary Atmosphere in the Habitable Zone
In our solar system, the densely cloud-covered atmosphere of Venus stands out as an example of how polarimetry can be used to gain information on cloud composition and particle mean radius.
With current interest running high on discovering and characterizing extrasolar planets in the habitable zone where water exists in the liquid state, making use of spectropolarimetric measurements of directly-imaged exoplanets could provide key information unobtainable through other means. In principle, spectropolarimetric measurements can determine if acidity causes water activities in the clouds to be too low for life.
To this end, we show that a spectropolarimeter measurement over the range 400 nm – 1000 nm would need to resolve linear polarization to a precision of about 1% or better for reflected starlight from an optically thick cloud-enshrouded exoplanet. We assess the likelihood of achieving this goal by simulating measurements from a notional spectropolarimeter as part of a starshade configuration for a large space telescope (a HabEx design, but for a 6 m diameter primary mirror). Our simulations include consideration of noise from a variety of sources.
We provide guidance on limits that would need to be levied on instrumental polarization to address the science issues we discuss. For photon-limited noise, integration times would need to be of order one hour for a large radius (10 Earth radii) planet to more than 100 hours for smaller exoplanets depending on the star-planet separation, planet radius, phase angle and desired uncertainty. We discuss implications for surface chemistry and habitability.
Robert A. West, Philip Dumont, Renyu Hu, Vijay Natraj, James Breckinridge, Pin Chen
Comments: ApJ, accepted
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics (physics.ao-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:2211.06450 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2211.06450v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
From: Renyu Hu
[v1] Fri, 11 Nov 2022 19:20:29 UTC (875 KB)