Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Polarization technique focuses limelight

27.12.2007
exoplanet reflected light detected for the first time

The ability to explore remote worlds in space has been enhanced through a polarization technique that allows the first ever detection of light reflected by extrasolar (exoplanet) planets. The study has been accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Svetlana Berdyugina of ETH Zurich's Institute of Astronomy, has for the first time ever been able to de-tect and monitor the visible light that is scattered in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. Employing techniques similar to how Polaroid sunglasses filter away reflected sunlight to reduce glare, the team of scientists were able to extract polarized light to enhance the faint reflected starlight 'glare' from an exoplanet. As a result, the scientists could infer the size of its swollen atmosphere. They also directly traced the orbit of the planet, a feat of visualization not possible using indirect methods.

Hot Jupiter

The transiting exoplanet under study circles the dwarf star HD189733 in the constellation Vulpecula and lies more than 60 light years from the earth. Known as HD189733b, this exoplanet was discovered two years ago via Doppler spec-troscopy. HD189733b is so close to its parent star that its atmosphere expands from the heat. Until now, astronomers have never seen light reflected from an exoplanet, although they have deduced from other observations that HD189733b probably resembles a 'hot Jupiter' - a planet orbiting extremely closely to its parent star. Unlike Jupiter, however, HD189733b orbits its star in a couple of days rather than the 12 years it takes Jupiter to make one orbit of the sun.

Two half-moon phases

The international team, consisting of Svetlana Berdyugina, Dominique Fluri (ETH Zurich), Andrei Berdyugin and Vilppu Piirola (Tuorla Observatory, Finland), used the 60cm KVA telescope by remote control. The telescope, which belongs to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, is located at La Palma, Spain and was modernised by scientists in Finland. The researchers obtained polarimetric measurements of the star and its planet. They discovered that po-larization peaks near the moments when half of the planet is illuminated by the star as seen from the earth. Such events occur twice during the orbit, similar to half-moon phases.

The polarization indicates that the scattering atmosphere is considerably larger (>30%) than the opaque body of the planet seen during transits and most probably consists of particles smaller than half a micron, for example atoms, molecules, tiny dust grains or perhaps water vapour, which was recently suggested to be present in the atmosphere. Such particles effectively scatter blue light - in exactly the same scattering process that creates the blue sky of the earth's atmosphere. The scientists were also able for the first time to recover the orientation of the planet's orbit and trace its motion in the sky.

"The polarimetric detection of the reflected light from exoplanets opens new and vast opportunities for exploring physical conditions in their atmospheres", Pro-fessor Svetlana Berdyugina said. "In addition, more can be learned about radii and true masses, and thus the densities of non-transiting planets."

Bibliography:
Svetlana V. Berdyugina, Andrei V. Berdyugin, Dominique M. Fluri, Vilppu Piirola: First detection of polarized scattered light from an exoplanetary atmosphere, Astrophys. J. Lett., online publication 24. December 2007.
Weitere Informationen:
http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/toc/apjl/0/0
http://Professor Svetlana Berdyugina
http://Institute of Astronomy
http://+41 (0)76 325 41 43
http://sveta@astro.phys.ethz.ch

Prof. Svetlana Berdyugina | idw
Further information:
http://www.ethz.ch

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope
13.12.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Columbia engineers create artificial graphene in a nanofabricated semiconductor structure
13.12.2017 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>