Thesis Topic: Bioastronomy with Planet Earth
Thesis Supervisor: Michael Sterzik
The quest for planets located in habitable zones, and, ultimately, life on extrasolar planets has already started. The origin of life in most extreme environments and the conditions for its evolution on Earth may be useful guides for our search of extraterrestrial Life. The emergence of photosynthesis early in Earths history marked the beginning of fundamental changes in climate and furnishes significant amounts of molecules far from chemical equilibrium into the atmosphere.
Our group has pioneered the astrophysical application of precision spectropolarimetry towards the characterisation of the atmosphere of planet Earth using the Earthshine. Our measurements demonstrate that polarimetric spectra of the Earth allow to infer and characterise biosignatures. This project will allow to understand observations of the Earthshine (with low and high spectral resolution, and at various phase angles) with detailed 3D radiative vector transfer models. The models will constrain the most robust signatures for the characterisation of earth-like atmospheres. The application of (spectro)polarimetry may become key for the imminent search for life on exoplanets with the next generation of giant, ground-based, telescopes.