Friday, March 29, 2013

1303.7168 (Jun Takahashi et al.)

Phase Variation of Earthshine Polarization Spectra    [PDF]

Jun Takahashi, Yoichi Itoh, Hiroshi Akitaya, Akira Okazaki, Koji Kawabata, Yumiko Oasa, Mizuki Isogai
We present the results of the optical spectropolarimetry of Earthshine on the Moon for Earth phase angles ranging from 49 to 96 degrees. The observations were conducted on 2011 March 9-13 (UT) using the spectropolarimeter HBS installed on the 1.88 m telescope at Okayama Astrophysical Observatory. The wavelength coverage was 450-850 nm with a resolution of 6 nm. The observed Earthshine polarization degree spectra exhibit decreasing polarization degree with increasing wavelength at any phase. The overall degree of polarization increases as the Earth approaches a quadrature phase. The phase dependence differs with the wavelengths; the maximum polarization for the V band occurs at a phase angle of ~90 degrees, whereas that for longer wavelengths is reached at larger phase angles. This is interpreted as indicating that Earthshine polarization at shorter wavelengths is dominated by atmospheric Rayleigh scattering, whereas that at longer wavelengths has an increasingly effective contribution from the Earth surface reflection. The wavelength dependence of the phase angle of the maximum polarization appears to be unique among the terrestrial planetary bodies in the Solar System. Therefore this might constitute important evidence pointing toward a distinctive characteristic of the Earth: the planet has a scattering but transparent atmosphere above its surface.
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