3 years ago

Surface Imaging of Proxima b and Other Exoplanets: Topography, Biosignatures, and Artificial Mega-Structures.

Jeff R. Kuhn, Svetlana V. Berdyugina

Seeing oceans, continents, quasi-static weather, and other surface features on exoplanets may allow us to detect and characterize life outside the solar system. The Proxima b planet resides within the stellar habitable zone allowing for liquid water on its surface, and it may be Earth-like. However, even the largest planned telescopes will not be able to resolve its surface features directly. Here, we demonstrate an inversion technique to image indirectly exoplanet surfaces using observed unresolved reflected light variations over the course of the exoplanets orbital and axial rotation: ExoPlanet Surface Imaging (EPSI). We show that the reflected light curve contains enough information to detect both longitudinal and latitudinal structures and to map exoplanet surface features. We demonstrate this using examples of Solar system planets and moons as well as simulated planets with Earth-like life and artificial megastructures. We also describe how it is possible to infer the planet and orbit geometry from light curves. In particular, we show how albedo maps of Proxima b can be successfully reconstructed for tidally locked, resonance, and unlocked axial and orbital rotation. Such albedo maps obtained in different wavelength passbands can provide "photographic" views of distant exoplanets. We estimate the signal-to-noise ratio necessary for successful inversions and analyse telescope and detector requirements necessary for the first surface images of Proxima b and other nearby exoplanets.

Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1711.00185

DOI: arXiv:1711.00185v1

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