Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Raman Scattering by Molecular Hydrogen and Nitrogen in Exoplanetary Atmospheres

Raman Scattering by Molecular Hydrogen and Nitrogen in Exoplanetary Atmospheres


Oklopčić et al


An important source of opacity in the atmospheres of exoplanets at short visible and near-UV wavelengths is Rayleigh scattering of light on molecules. It is accompanied by a related, albeit weaker process -- Raman scattering. In this paper, we analyze the signatures of Raman scattering imprinted in the reflected light and the geometric albedo of exoplanets, which could provide valuable information about planetary atmospheres. Raman scattering affects the geometric albedo spectra of planets in two main ways. Firstly, it causes filling-in of strong absorption lines in the incident radiation, thus producing sharp peaks in the albedo. Secondly, it shifts the wavelengths of spectral features in the reflected light causing the so-called Raman ghost lines. Observing the Raman peaks in the albedo could be used to measure the column density of the scattering molecule, thus providing constrains on the presence of clouds and hazes in the atmosphere. Observing the Raman ghost lines could be used to spectroscopically identify the main scatterer in the atmosphere -- molecules like H2 or N2 that do not have prominent spectral signatures in the optical wavelength range. If detected, ghost lines could also provide information about the temperature of the atmosphere. In this work we investigate the effects of Raman scattering in hydrogen- and nitrogen-dominated atmospheres. We analyze the feasibility of detecting the signatures of Raman scattering with the existing and future observational facilities, and of using these signatures as probes of exoplanetary atmospheres.

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