Gemini Planet Imager Captures Its First Direct Picture of an Extrasolar Planet: PHOTO


Teams at the Gemini Observatory in Chile announced the functionality of their long-awaited Gemini Planet Imager by releasing the above picture, the first in what is expected to become a string of exoplanet images from across the galaxy. Gizmodo reports:

Acquired by the world's most powerful planet-hunting instrument, the Gemini Planet Imager, it shows a 10-million-year-old planet called Beta Pictorus orbiting its giant parent star [at a distance of 63 light years from Earth]. It's the first such image to come from Gemini, which has been under development for over a decade but is only now producing data like this.

The Imager detects infrared radiation to readily spot young planets, whose post-formation afterglow is in that part of the spectrum, while masking light emitted by parent stars that can often interfere with images.

While only around a dozen exoplanets have been directly photographed to date, the Gemini’s advanced technology is enabling its team to already begin analyzing 600 other young stars and the planets that surround them.

The Imager has also taken some impressive shots of polarized light of stars and Jupiter's moon Europa. Check them out, AFTER THE JUMP...

Polarized light

Via the observatory's website: Gemini Planet Imager’s first light image of the light scattered by a disk of dust orbiting the young star HR4796A. This narrow ring is thought to be dust from asteroids or comets left behind by planet formation; some scientists have theorized that the sharp edge of the ring is defined by an unseen planet. The left image (1.9-2.1 microns) shows normal light, including both the dust ring and the residual light from the central star scattered by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. The right image shows only polarized light. Leftover starlight is unpolarized and hence removed from this image. The light from the back edge of the disk is strongly polarized as it scatters towards us.


Via the observatory's website: Comparison of Europa observed with Gemini Planet Imager in K1 band on the right and visible albedo visualization based on a composite map made from Galileo SSI and Voyager 1 and 2 data (from USGS) on the left. While GPI is not designed for ‘extended’ objects like this, its observations could help in following surface alterations on icy satellites of Jupiter or atmospheric phenomena (e.g. clouds, haze) on Saturn’s moon Titan. The GPI near-infrared color image is a combination of 3 wavelength channels.

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  1. Yea Science!

    Posted by: Magpie | Jan 9, 2014 6:53:44 PM

  2. It's impossible to grasp the shear size of our universe alone. And I'm afraid science has no satisfactory answer as to how existance began, how something, even a void (which is a concept) came from 'nothing' (?),

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jan 9, 2014 8:08:00 PM

  3. Effing unbelievable what they can do now.

    Posted by: Lifesart | Jan 9, 2014 9:38:51 PM

  4. In case you are curious, US tax dollars funded 50% of the project. It is not cheap.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 10, 2014 1:42:52 AM

  5. In case you are curious, US tax dollars funded 50% of the project. It is not cheap.

    Posted by: simon | Jan 10, 2014 1:43:01 AM

  6. Simon: Good. I'd rather have the money going for that than for subsidies to corporations that are showing record profits.

    Posted by: Hunter | Jan 10, 2014 7:54:58 AM

  7. I'd rather have my tax money go to this than churches - especially ones that discriminate against LGBT people.

    Posted by: Kieran | Jan 10, 2014 9:21:55 AM

  8. It looks like those microscope photos of egg fertilization. It nicely complements other methods of detecting planets.

    Posted by: anon | Jan 10, 2014 12:25:19 PM

  9. Compare to this image of Beta Pictoris from a few decades ago -- the first image
    (I think) to show a disk of matter around a star other than the sun.

    It's amazing what we can see now.

    Posted by: Rob | Jan 10, 2014 1:21:25 PM

  10. The camera costs less than $20M, so yes, it is not "cheap" but it is nothing compared to the budget of NASA, NSF and US military. $20M to image and probe the atmosphere of planets orbiting around nearby stars, who will not pay for that?

    Posted by: Franck | Jan 10, 2014 2:40:31 PM

  11. @FRANCK: Who will not pay for that? Short-sighted people with no understanding of the value of expanding our knowledge of the Universe in which we live--and of which we are a part. That's who. It makes me proud to know that the U.S. has played a role in funding the creation of this telescope.

    Posted by: MajorTom | Jan 10, 2014 9:18:42 PM

  12. @FRANCK - The budgets of NASA and the NSF are laughable compared to the defense budget. The 2011 defense budget -- ONE year -- was nearly $965 billion, while NASA, NSF, DOE, and NIH combined were far less than $100 billion.

    Compare that one year of nearly $1 trillion against the ~$800 billion NASA received over the course of 54 years.

    Education, incidentally, received $130 billion in 2011.

    And if you're wondering what good NASA does for the rest of us:

    Posted by: SERICAR | Jan 10, 2014 10:28:44 PM

  13. Very sexy.

    Posted by: Enkil | Jan 11, 2014 4:34:53 AM

    FYI I work on this project, so I am like reading your comments.

    Posted by: Franck | Jan 11, 2014 5:41:17 PM

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