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Astrophysics > Earth and Planetary Astrophysics

Title: Can Ground-based Telescopes Detect The Oxygen 1.27 Micron Absorption Feature as a Biomarker in Exoplanets ?

Abstract: The oxygen absorption line imprinted in the scattered light from the Earth-like planets has been considered the most promising metabolic biomarker of the exo-life. We examine the feasibility of the detection of the 1.27 micron oxygen band from habitable exoplanets, in particular, around late- type stars observed with a future instrument on a 30 m class ground-based telescope. We analyzed the night airglow around 1.27 micron with IRCS/echelle spectrometer on Subaru and found that the strong telluric emission from atmospheric oxygen molecules declines by an order of magnitude by midnight. By compiling nearby star catalogs combined with the sky background model, we estimate the detectability of the oxygen absorption band from an Earth twin, if it exists, around nearby stars. We find that the most dominant source of photon noise for the oxygen 1.27 micron band detection comes from the night airglow if the contribution of the stellar PSF halo is suppressed enough to detect the planet. We conclude that the future detectors for which the detection contrast is limited by photon noise can detect the oxygen 1.27 micron absorption band of the Earth twins for ~50 candidates of the late type star. This paper demonstrates the importance of deploying small inner working angle efficient coronagraph and extreme adaptive optics on extremely large telescopes, and clearly shows that doing so will enable study of potentially habitable planets.
Comments: 11 pages, 9 figures, accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Journal reference: The Astrophysical Journal 758, 13 (2012)
DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/758/1/13
Cite as: arXiv:1206.0558 [astro-ph.EP]
  (or arXiv:1206.0558v2 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Hajime Kawahara [view email]
[v1] Mon, 4 Jun 2012 09:25:51 GMT (3674kb)
[v2] Sun, 5 Aug 2012 03:41:40 GMT (3675kb)