Thesis Topic: Tracing biosignatures on planet Earth with high-resolution infrared spectropolarimetry


Thesis Supervisor: Michael Sterzik


Polarization spectra of planet Earth contain a rich imprint of its atmosphere and surface properties, including biosignatures.
They are an important benchmark to constrain potential biosignatures of Earth-like planets to be scrutinized by future giant telescopes.
Today, biosignatures of planet Earth can be observed through Earthshine with ground-based astronomical facilities.
This PhD project will involve observations, analysis and modeling of polarization spectra of Earthshine in the near-infrared, which will be obtained e.g. with CRIRES+ at the VLT and its novel high-resolution spectropolarimetric capability. With the help of detailed radiative transfer models, characteristic signatures of planet Earth will be extracted, and their sensitivity and specificity will be compared with those obtained in the optical waveband, considering all instrumental and atmospheric parameters.
The results will advance the trade-off analysis for the most suitable techniques, observation strategies and instrument designs to be used for the detection of biosignatures on exoplanets with future ELTs. This PhD project will involve collaboration with astronomers from Armagh Observatory and meteorologists from the LMU, Munich.