Reflected spectra and albedos of extrasolar giant planets. I. Clear and cloudy atmospheres

Mark S. Marley, Christopher Gelino, Denise Stephens, Jonathan I. Lunine, Richard Freedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


The reflected spectra of extrasolar giant planets are primarily influenced by Rayleigh scattering, molecular absorption, and atmospheric condensates. We present model geometric albedo and phase-integral spectra and Bond albedos for planets and brown dwarfs with masses between 0.8 and 70 Jupiter masses. Rayleigh scattering predominates in the blue while molecular absorption removes most red and infrared photons. Thus cloud-free atmospheres, found on giant planets with effective temperatures exceeding about 400 K, are quite dark in reflected light beyond 0.6 μm. In cooler atmospheres, first water clouds and then other condensates provide a bright reflecting layer. Only planets with cloudy atmospheres will be detectable in reflected light beyond 1 μm. Thermal emission dominates the near-infrared for warm objects with clear atmospheres. However the presence of other condensates, not considered here, may brighten some planets in reflected near-infrared light and darken them in the blue and UV. Bond albedos, the ratio of the total reflected to incident power, are sensitive to the spectral type of the primary. Most incident photons from early-type stars will be Rayleigh scattered, while most incident photons from late-type stars will be absorbed. The Bond albedo of a given planet thus may range from 0.4 to 0.05, depending on the primary type. Condensation of a water cloud may increase the Bond albedo of a planet by up to a factor of 2. The spectra of cloudy planets are strongly influenced by poorly constrained cloud microphysical properties, particularly particle size and supersaturation. Both Bond and geometric albedos are comparatively less sensitive to variations in planet mass and effective temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-893
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Mar 10 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Infrared: stars
  • Planetary systems
  • Radiative transfer
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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