Monday, June 5, 2017

Transit Detection of a "Starshade" at the Inner Lagrange Point of an Exoplanet

Transit Detection of a "Starshade" at the Inner Lagrange Point of an Exoplanet 


All water-covered rocky planets in the inner habitable zones of solar-type stars will inevitably experience a catastrophic runaway climate due to increasing stellar luminosity and limits to outgoing infrared radiation from wet greenhouse atmospheres. Reflectors or scatterers placed near Earth's inner Lagrange point (L1) have been proposed as a 'geo-engineering" solution to anthropogenic climate change and an advanced version of this could modulate incident irradiation over many Gyr or "rescue" a planet from the interior of the habitable zone. The distance of the starshade from the planet that minimizes its mass is 1.6 times the Earth-L1 distance. Such a starshade would have to be similar in size to the planet and the mutual occultations during planetary transits could produce a characteristic maximum at mid-transit in the light-curve. Because of a fortuitous ratio of densities, Earth-size planets around G dwarf stars present the best opportunity to detect such an artifact. The signal would be persistent and is potentially detectable by a future space photometry mission to characterize transiting planets. The signal could be distinguished from natural phenomenon, i.e. starspots or cometary dust clouds, by its shape, persistence, and transmission spectrum.

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