The next generation of ground- and space-based telescopes will be able to observe rocky Earth-like planets in the near future, transiting their host star. We explore how the transmission spectrum of Earth changed through its geological history. These transmission spectra provide a template for how to characterize an Earth-like exoplanet—from a young prebiotic world to a modern Earth. They also allow us to explore at what point in its evolution a distant observer could identify life on our Pale Blue Dots and other worlds like it. We chose atmosphere models representative of five geological epochs of Earth's history, corresponding to a prebiotic high CO2-world 3.9 billion years ago (Ga), an anoxic world around 3.5 Ga, and 3 epochs through the rise of oxygen from 0.2% to present atmospheric levels of 21%. Our transmission spectra show atmospheric spectral features, which would show a remote observer that Earth had a biosphere since about 2 billion years ago. The high-resolution transmission spectral database of Earth through geological time from the VIS to the IR is available online and can be used as a tool to optimize our observation strategy, train retrieval methods, and interpret upcoming observations with the James Webb Space Telescope, the Extremely Large Telescopes, and future mission concepts like Origins, HabEx, and LUOVIR.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- March 2020
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
- in review ApJ