October 14, 2014

Detectability of planetary characteristics in disk-averaged spectra. I: The Earth model

Tinetti G., Meadows V.S., Crisp D., Fong W., Fishbein E., Turnbull M., Bibring J.-P.

Summary: Over the next 2 decades, NASA and ESA are planning a series of space-based observatories to detect and characterize extrasolar planets. This first generation of observatories will not be able to spatially resolve the terrestrial planets detected. Instead, these planets will be characterized by disk-averaged spectroscopy. To assess the detectability of planetary characteristics in disk-averaged spectra, we have developed a spatially and spectrally resolved model of the Earth. This model uses atmospheric and surface properties from existing observations and modeling studies as input, and generates spatially resolved high-resolution synthetic spectra using the Spectral Mapping Atmospheric Radiative Transfer model. Synthetic spectra were generated for a variety of conditions, including cloud coverage, illumination fraction, and viewing angle geometry, over a wavelength range extending from the ultraviolet to the farinfrared. Here we describe the model and validate it against disk-averaged visible to infrared observations of the Earth taken by the Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer, the ESA Mars Express Omega instrument, and ground-based observations of earthshine reflected from the unilluminated portion of the Moon. The comparison between the data and model indicates that several atmospheric species can be identified in disk-averaged Earth spectra, and potentially detected depending on the wavelength range and resolving power of the instrument. At visible wavelengths (0.4-0.9 µm) O3, H2O, O2, and oxygen dimer [(O2)2] are clearly apparent. In the mid-infrared (5-20 µm) CO2, O3, and H2O are present. CH4, N2O, CO2, O3, and H2O are visible in the near-infrared (1-5 µm). A comprehensive three-dimensional model of the Earth is needed to produce a good fit with the observations. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.