EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 428, Number 2, December III 2004
Page(s) 663 - 672
Section Planets and planetary systems
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20041578

A&A 428, 663-672 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20041578

Using polarimetry to detect and characterize Jupiter-like extrasolar planets

D. M. Stam1, J. W. Hovenier1 and L. B. F. M. Waters1, 2

1  Astronomical Institute "Anton Pannekoek", University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    e-mail: dstam@science.uva.nl
2  Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, K.U. Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200B, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium

(Received 14 April 2004 / Accepted 9 August 2004 )

Using numerical simulations of flux and polarization spectra of visible to near-infrared starlight reflected by Jupiter-like extrasolar planets, we show that polarimetry can be used both for the detection and for the characterization of extrasolar planets. Polarimetry is valuable for detection because direct, unscattered starlight is generally unpolarized, while starlight that has been reflected by a planet will generally be polarized. Polarimetry is valuable for planet characterization because the degree of polarization of starlight that has been reflected by a planet depends strongly on the composition and structure of the planetary atmosphere.

Key words: techniques: polarimetric -- stars: planetary systems -- polarization

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© ESO 2004