Many of the directly imaged self-luminous gas-giant exoplanets have been found to have cloudy atmospheres. Scattering of the emergent thermal radiation from these planets by the dust grains in their atmospheres should locally give rise to significant linear polarization of the emitted radiation. However, the observable disk-averaged polarization should be zero if the planet is spherically symmetric. Rotation-induced oblateness may yield a net non-zero disk-averaged polarization if the planets have sufficiently high spin rotation velocity. On the other hand, when a large natural satellite or exomoon transits a planet with a cloudy atmosphere along the line of sight, the asymmetry induced during the transit should give rise to a net non-zero, time-resolved linear polarization signal. The peak amplitude of such time-dependent polarization may be detectable even for slowly rotating exoplanets. Therefore, we suggest that large exomoons around directly imaged self-luminous exoplanets may be detectable through time-resolved imaging polarimetry. Adopting detailed atmospheric models for several values of effective temperature and surface gravity that are appropriate for self-luminous exoplanets, we present the polarization profiles of these objects in the infrared during the transit phase and estimate the peak amplitude of polarization that occurs during the inner contacts of the transit ingress/egress phase. The peak polarization is predicted to range between 0.1% and 0.3% in the infrared.
- Infrared: planetary systems
- planets and satellites: atmospheres
- planets and satellites: detection
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science