Thursday, June 6, 2013

1306.1218 (Andreas Bazzon et al.)

Measurement of the earthshine polarization in the B, V, R, and I band as function of phase    [PDF]

Andreas Bazzon, Hans Martin Schmid, Daniel Gisler
The characterization of the polarimetric properties of the planet Earth is important for the interpretation of expected observations and the planning of future instruments. We present a multi-wavelengths and multi-phase set of benchmark values for the polarization signal of the integrated light from the planet Earth derived from new polarimetric observations of the earthshine back-scattered from the Moon's dark side. Using a new, specially designed wide field polarimeter we measured the fractional polarization of the earthshine in the B, V, R and I filters for Earth phase angles alpha between 30{\deg} and 110{\deg}. The phase dependence of the earthshine polarization is fitted by a function p x sin(alpha)^2. To determine the polarization of the planet Earth we correct our earthshine measurements by a polarization efficiency function for the lunar surface derived from measurements of lunar samples from the literature. The polarization of the earthshine decreases towards longer wavelengths and is about a factor 1.3 lower for the higher albedo highlands. For mare regions the measured maximum polarization is about 13 % at quadrature in the B band. The resulting fractional polarizations for Earth are 24.6 % for the B band, 19.1 % for the V band, 13.5 % for the R band, and 8.3 % for the I band. Together with literature values for the spectral reflectivity of Earth we obtain a contrast between the polarized flux of the Earth and the (total) flux of the Sun with an uncertainty of less than 20 % and we find that the best phase to detect an Earth twin is around an Earth phase alpha=65{\deg}. The polarimetric models of Earth-like planets from Stam (2008) are in qualitative agreement with our results but there are also significant differences which might guide more detailed computations.
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