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Astrophysics > Earth and Planetary Astrophysics

Title: Clouds in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. III. Impact of low and high-level clouds on the reflection spectra of Earth-like planets

Abstract: We study the influence of low-level water and high-level ice clouds on low-resolution reflection spectra and planetary albedos of Earth-like planets orbiting different types of stars in both the visible and near infrared wavelength range. We use a one-dimensional radiative-convective steady-state atmospheric model coupled with a parametric cloud model, based on observations in the Earth's atmosphere to study the effect of both cloud types on the reflection spectra and albedos of Earth-like extrasolar planets at low resolution for various types of central stars. We find that the high scattering efficiency of clouds substantially causes both the amount of reflected light and the related depths of the absorption bands to be substantially larger than in comparison to the respective clear sky conditions. Low-level clouds have a stronger impact on the spectra than the high-level clouds because of their much larger scattering optical depth. The detectability of molecular features in near the UV - near IR wavelength range is strongly enhanced by the presence of clouds. However, the detectability of various chemical species in low-resolution reflection spectra depends strongly on the spectral energy distribution of the incident stellar radiation. In contrast to the reflection spectra the spectral planetary albedos enable molecular features to be detected without a direct influence of the spectral energy distribution of the stellar radiation. Here, clouds increase the contrast between the radiation fluxes of the planets and the respective central star by about one order of magnitude, but the resulting contrast values are still too low to be observable with the current generation of telescopes.
Comments: accepted for publication in A&A
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201117375
Cite as: arXiv:1108.3274 [astro-ph.EP]
  (or arXiv:1108.3274v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Daniel Kitzmann [view email]
[v1] Tue, 16 Aug 2011 16:18:32 GMT (310kb)