Wednesday, January 08, 2014

1st Photos of Alien Worlds as Seen By New Exoplanet Imager

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1st Photos of Alien Worlds as Seen By New Exoplanet Imager 11-13-13

By Tanya Lewis

      . . . The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), an instrument at the 8-meter Gemini South telescope in Chile, can see exoplanets in the outer solar system of young stars. Its goal is to improve the contrast of planetary imaging by an order of magnitude.

The imager had its "first light" on Nov. 11, 2013, and has worked very smoothly, MacIntosh said. Astronomers first used it to image a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. The image took only 60 seconds to capture, a process that would have taken an hour before.

The imager can also take spectra of a planet by breaking up light into its component colors, revealing the planet's composition and surface temperature. Images can also be taken in polarized light.

The GPI is eight times more sensitive than current systems, MacIntosh said. . . .

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