Feasibility of spectro-polarimetric characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres with direct observing instruments
1 Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory, Center for Astronomy, University of Hyogo, 407-2, Nishigaichi, Sayo, 679-5313 Hyogo, Japan
2 Department of Earth and Space Science, Graduate School of Science, Osaka University 1–1, Machikaneyama-Cho, Toyonaka, 560-0043 Osaka, Japan
Received: 28 January 2016
Accepted: 9 November 2016
Context. Spectro-polarimetry of reflected light from exoplanets is anticipated to be a powerful method for probing atmospheric composition and structure.
Aims. We aim to evaluate the feasibility of the search for a spectro-polarimetric feature of water vapor using a high-contrast polarimetric instrument on a 30–40 m-class ground-based telescope.
Methods. Three types of errors are considered: (a) errors from the difference between efficiencies for two orthogonally polarized states; (b) errors caused by speckle noises; and (c) errors caused by photon noise from scattered starlight. Using the analytically derived error formulas, we estimate the number of planets for which feasible spectro-polarimetric detection of water vapor is possible.
Results. Our calculations show that effective spectro-polarimetric searches for water vapor are possible for 5 to 14 known planets. Spectro-polarimetric characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres is feasible with an extremely large telescope and a direct observing spectro-polarimeter.
Key words: planetary systems / techniques: polarimetric / instrumentation: polarimeters
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