Volume 566, June 2014
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Published online||05 June 2014|
Glory revealed in disk-integrated photometry of Venus⋆
ESA Fellow, ESA/RSSD, ESTEC,
2 Grupo de Ciencias Planetarias, Departamento de Física Aplicada I, ETS Ingeniería, UPV/EHU, 48013 Bilbao, Spain
3 Unidad Asociada Grupo de Ciencias Planetarias, UPV/EHU-IAA/CSIC, 48008 Bilbao, Spain
Received: 29 January 2014
Accepted: 29 April 2014
Context. Reflected light from a spatially unresolved planet yields unique insight into the overall optical properties of the planet cover. Glories are optical phenomena caused by light that is backscattered within spherical droplets following a narrow distribution of sizes; they are well known on Earth as localised features above liquid clouds.
Aims. Here we report the first evidence for a glory in the disk-integrated photometry of Venus and, in turn, of any planet.
Methods. We used previously published phase curves of the planet that were reproduced over the full range of phase angles with model predictions based on a realistic description of the Venus atmosphere. We assumed that the optical properties of the planet as a whole can be described by a uniform and stable cloud cover, an assumption that agrees well with observational evidence.
Results. We specifically show that the measured phase curves mimic the scattering properties of the Venus upper-cloud micron-sized aerosols, also at the small phase angles at which the glory occurs, and that the glory contrast is consistent with what is expected after multiple scattering of photons. In the optical, the planet appears to be brighter at phase angles of ~11–13° than at full illumination; it undergoes a maximum dimming of up to ~10% at phases in between.
Conclusions. Glories might potentially indicate spherical droplets and, thus, extant liquid clouds in the atmospheres of exoplanets. A prospective detection will require exquisite photometry at the small planet-star separations of the glory phase angles.
Key words: techniques: photometric / planets and satellites: atmospheres / radiative transfer
Appendices are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2014
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