Suppose a team of astronauts have travelled to another solar system, and are currently living in a craft which is in Medium Earth Orbit of a planet which has oceans, continents, and complex life. Assume that among them are people of every relevant field of science, and onboard there is all equipment necessary for your answer.
Essentially, what I want to know is; how much information about this planet can these people accquire while in orbit, without actually setting foot on it or even entering the atmosphere? When I say "information", I mean virtually everything of scientific value - mass, atmospheric composition, topography, temperature, life, you name it.
If this question is broad or opinion-based, I apologize. Please let me know and I'll try my best to amend it accordingly. If you need further clarification, just ask.
EDIT: More clarification, in response to Molot's comment. For the purposes of the question, imagine that the technology they'll be using to find out about the planet is equivalent to modern technology, despite their means of transport being obviously not so.
As I said; "assume . . . onboard there is all equipment necessary". However, as regards "telling what there is to find or what is needed", I'll compose a short list here of the topics the team are interested in, so answerers can let me know what's possible in these fields.
- Mass of the planet and distribution of that mass
- Internal composition of the planet (materials in mantle and core and size of layers)
- Tectonic activity
- Composition and density of atmosphere; breathability to humans
- Weather patterns, prevailing winds/currents, wind speed etc.
- Temperature of the air, oceans etc., temperature of the planet's interior
- Presence of life, nature, chemistry and abundance of that life; possibly even observation of individual organisms (See this question: Can I monitor animal movements from space?)
- Ph of land, oceans etc.
- Magnetic field
That's all I can think of right now, I might add to the list later on. Essentially, I'd like to know what the scientists can and can't find out about these subjects, or whether they're possible to study from orbit at all. Hopefully this helps.