Diagnostic possibilities of reflected starlight from exoplanets
Antonio Garcia Munoz (TU Berlin)
April 01, 2019
Abstract: Following two decades of exciting discoveries, exoplanet science is now headed towards atmospheric characterization. The shift in focus is motivated by the unique potential of atmospheres to reveal the structure, history and climate of these exotic worlds, and to offer clues into their habitability. A major challenge faced by ongoing characterization efforts is how to extend the toolkit of remote sensing techniques to capture key atmospheric traits (e.g. albedos) and sense altitudes that cannot be probed by more established methods such as transmission/emission spectroscopy. In this talk, I will summarize some of my recent work that explores the diagnostic potential of reflected starlight. The technique remains a niche for exoplanets, but promises rapid progress in the imminent future with new ground facilities and space missions. In particular, I will: 1) discuss a proposed interpretation of the optical phase curve of Kepler-7b; 2) elaborate on a technique based on high-dispersion spectro-polarimetry to constrain the polarizing properties of exoplanet atmospheres; 3) discuss the information contained in an exoplanet phase curve at large phase angles, i.e. immediately before/after inferior conjunction.