Volume 653, September 2021
|Number of page(s)||19|
|Section||Planets and planetary systems|
|Published online||14 September 2021|
Polarimetric signature of the oceans as detected by near-infrared Earthshine observations
Center for Astronomy, University of Hyogo,
2 Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan
3 Faculty of Education/Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Saitama University, 255 Shimo-Okubo, Sakura-ku, Saitama 338-8570, Japan
4 Astronomy Program, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Seoul National University, 1 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 08826, Republic of Korea
5 SNU Astronomy Research Center, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Seoul National University, 1 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 08826, Republic of Korea
Accepted: 14 June 2021
Context. The discovery of an extrasolar planet with an ocean has crucial importance in the search for life beyond Earth. The polarimetric detection of specularly reflected light from a smooth liquid surface is anticipated theoretically, though the polarimetric signature of Earth’s oceans has not yet been conclusively detected in disk-integrated planetary light.
Aims. We aim to detect and measure the polarimetric signature of the Earth’s oceans.
Methods. We conducted near-infrared polarimetry for lunar Earthshine and collected data on 32 nights with a variety of ocean fractions in the Earthshine-contributing region.
Results. A clear positive correlation was revealed between the polarization degree and ocean fraction. We found hourly variations in polarization in accordance with rotational transition of the ocean fraction. The ratios of the variation to the typical polarization degree were as large as ~0.2–1.4.
Conclusions. Our observations provide plausible evidence of the polarimetric signature attributed to Earth’s oceans. Near-infrared polarimetry may be considered a prospective technique in the search for exoplanetary oceans.
Key words: planets and satellites: oceans / planets and satellites: terrestrial planets / techniques: polarimetric
© ESO 2021
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