Spectral and Temporal Variability of Earth Observed in Polarization

Status Report From: e-Print archive
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2018

Michael F. Sterzik, Stefano Bagnulo, Daphne M. Stam, Claudia Emde, Mihail Manev

(Submitted on 29 Nov 2018)

We present a comprehensive set of spectropolarimetric observations of Earthshine as obtained by FORS2 at the VLT for phase angles from 50degree to 135degree (Sun-Earth-Moon angle), covering a spectral range from 430nm to 920nm. The degree of polarization in BVRI passbands, the differential polarization vegetation index, and the equivalent width of the O2A polarization band around 760nm are determined with absolute errors around 0.1 percent in the degree of polarization. Earthshine polarization spectra are corrected for the effect of depolarization introduced by backscattering on the lunar surface, introducing systematic errors of the order of 1 percent in the degree of polarization. Distinct viewing sceneries such as observing the Atlantic or Pacific side in Earthshine yield statistically different phase curves. The equivalent width defined for the O2A band polarization is found to vary from -5nm to +2nm. A differential polarized vegetation index is introduced and reveals a larger vegetation signal for those viewing sceneries that contain larger fractions of vegetated surface areas. We corroborate the observed correlations with theoretical models from the literature, and conclude that the Vegetation Red Edge(VRE) is a robust and sensitive signature in polarization spectra of planet Earth. The overall behaviour of polarization of planet Earth in the continuum and in the O2A band can be explained by existing models. Biosignatures such as the O2A band and the VRE are detectable in Earthshine polarization with a high degree of significance and sensitivity. An in-depth understanding of Earthshines temporal and spectral variability requires improved models of Earths biosphere, as a prerequisite to interpret possible detections of polarised biosignatures in earthlike exoplanets in the future.

Comments: 19 pages, 14 figures, 3 tables

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1811.12079 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1811.12079v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Michael F. Sterzik  

[v1] Thu, 29 Nov 2018 11:38:38 UTC (1,623 KB)

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