Prospects for Directly Imaging Young Giant Planets at Optical Wavelengths

Brianna Lacy, Adam Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In this work, we investigate the properties of young giant planet spectra in the optical and suggest that future space-based direct imaging missions should be considering young planets as a valuable and informative science case. While young planets are dimmer in the optical than in the infrared, they can still be brighter in the optical than a mature planet of similar mass. Therefore, an instrument designed to characterize mature planets should also be suitable for high-precision photometric imaging and spectroscopy of young self-luminous planets in a wavelength range and at a contrast ratio not currently attainable from the ground. We identify known young self-luminous companions that are feasible targets for coronagraphic instrument on the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST-CGI) and compute spectra for them, including a treatment of scattering and reflected light at optical wavelengths. Using these results, we highlight potentially diagnostic spectral features that will be present in the WFIRST-CGI wavelengths. Expanding to direct imaging missions beyond WFIRST-CGI, we also use evolutionary models across a grid of masses and planet-star separations as inputs to compute spectra of hypothetical objects, exploring when reflected light may contribute to a degree comparable to that of thermal emission from the residual heat of formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number151
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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