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

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.


  1. ratbastard says

    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’ (?),

  2. Franck says

    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?

  3. MajorTom says

    @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.

  4. SERICAR says

    @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:

Leave A Reply