Friday, August 5, 2016

Polarimetric Detection of Exoplanets Transiting T- and L- Brown Dwarfs

Polarimetric Detection of Exoplanets Transiting T- and L- Brown Dwarfs




While scattering of light by atoms and molecules yields large amount of polarization at the B-band of both T- and L-dwarfs, scattering by dust grains in cloudy atmosphere of L-dwarfs gives rise to significant polarization at the far-optical and infra-red wavelengths where these objects are much brighter. However, the observable disk averaged polarization should be zero if the clouds are uniformly distributed and the object is spherically symmetric. Therefore, in order to explain the observed large polarization of several L-dwarfs, rotation-induced oblateness or horizontally inhomogeneous cloud distribution in the atmosphere is invoked. On the other hand, when an extra-solar planet of Earth-size or larger transits the brown dwarf along the line of sight, the asymmetry induced during the transit gives rise to a net non-zero, time dependent polarization. Employing atmospheric models for a range of effective temperature and surface gravity appropriate for T- and L-dwarfs, I derive the time dependent polarization profiles of these objects during transit phase and estimate the peak amplitude of polarization that occurs during the inner contact points of the transit ingress/egress phase. It is found that peak polarization in the range of 0.2-1.0 % at I- and J-band may arise of cloudy L dwarfs occulted by Earth-size or larger exoplanets. Such an amount of polarization is higher than that can be produced by rotation-induced oblateness of even the rapidly rotating L-dwarfs. Hence, I suggest that time resolved imaging polarization should be a potential technique to detect transiting exoplanets around L-dwarfs.

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