Monday, April 13, 2009

How to Detect Exoplanetary Oceans

Photometric Variability in Earthshine Observations
Authors: Sally V. Langford, J. Stuart B. Wyithe, Edwin L. Turner
(Submitted on 6 Apr 2009)

Abstract: The identification of an extrasolar planet as Earth-like will depend on the detection of atmospheric signatures or surface non-uniformities. In this paper we present spatially unresolved flux light curves of Earth for the purpose of studying a prototype extrasolar terrestrial planet. Our monitoring of the photometric variability of earthshine revealed changes of up to 23 % per hour in the brightness of Earth's scattered light at around 600 nm, due to the removal of specular reflection from the view of the Moon. This variability is accompanied by reddening of the spectrum, and results from a change in surface properties across the continental boundary between the Indian Ocean and Africa's east coast. Our results based on earthshine monitoring indicate that specular reflection should provide a useful tool in determining the presence of liquid water on extrasolar planets via photometric observations.

Comments: To appear in Astrobiology 9(3). 17 pages, 3 figures, 1 table

Also see here.

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