Direct imaging constraints on oblateness from polarisation

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Direct imaging constraints on oblateness from polarisation

Post by Sirius_Alpha on 2nd June 2011, 9:03 pm

Probing the Physical Properties of Directly Imaged Gas Giant Exoplanets Through Polarization

It is becoming clear that the atmospheres of the young, self-luminous extrasolar giant planets imaged to date are dusty. Planets with dusty atmospheres may exhibit detectable amounts of linear polarization in the near-infrared, as has been observed from some field L dwarfs. The asymmetry required in the thermal radiation field to produce polarization may arise either from the rotation-induced oblateness or from surface inhomogeneities, such as partial cloudiness. While it is not possible at present to predict the extent to which atmospheric dynamics on a given planet may produce surface inhomogeneities substantial enough to produce net non-zero disk integrated polarization, the contribution of rotation-induced oblateness can be estimated. Using a self-consistent, spatially homogeneous atmospheric model and a multiple scattering polarization formalism for this class of exoplanets, we show that polarization on the order of 1% may arise due to the rotation-induced oblateness of the planets. The observed polarization may be even higher if surface inhomogeneities exist and play a significatnt role. Polarized radiation from self-luminous gas giant exoplanets, if detected, provides an additional tool to characterize these young planets and a new method to constrain their surface gravity and masses.

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