Probing the atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs with near-IR polarimetry

Rebecca Jensen-Clem (Berkeley)
Event Date and Time: 
Mon, 2018-01-15 15:00 - 16:15
Hennings 318
Local Contact: 
Jaymie Matthews
Intended Audience: 
Our understanding of exoplanet compositions and their implications for planet formation are closely linked to our understanding of the physical processes that govern exoplanet atmospheres. However, the atmospheric models that best fit the observed spectra tend to imply implausibly small radii Such discrepancies may be due to a lack of detail in the models of exoplanet clouds, which generally lack well-motivated cloud grain size distributions, depth variations, and horizontal structures. Polarimetry is an untapped method for constraining both exoplanet and brown dwarf cloud models: scattering by grains in the atmospheres of young, cloudy objects induces polarization of their thermally emitted, near-infrared radiation. With the advent of high contrast spectro-polarimeters such as GPI and SPHERE, such a detection may now be possible with careful treatment of instrumental polarization. I will discuss the role of polarimetry in brown dwarf and exoplanet science, test observations with GPI, as well as current and future polarimetric observing campaigns.
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