The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) – reportedly the “most powerful planet-finder” in the world – has started taking images of the planets outside of our solar system and analyzing them.
GPI will give significant help in studying dusty, planet-forming disks around young stars, in detail. It can also help in detection and study of objects in our solar system. It is one of the most advanced devices installed on the 8-meter Gemini South telescope in Chile, i.e. one of the biggest telescopes in the world.
The Integral Field Spectrometer (IFS) was built at UCLA’s Infrared Laboratory for Astrophysics, with UCLA astronomy professor James Larkin as lead investigator. This instrument is the important component of the planet finder. It will take the images and record the spectra, infrared (heat) radiation of planets around other stars.
“The IFS takes the chemical ‘fingerprint’ of the molecules in a planet’s atmosphere,” Larkin said. “From that, we can figure out its temperature and composition. The IFS is also crucial for removing starlight that can hide the planet’s signal even after the coronagraph and adaptive optics system.”
The GPI represents an “amazing technical achievement for the international team of scientists who conceived, designed and constructed the instrument, as well as a hallmark of the capabilities of the Gemini telescopes,” said Gary Schmidt, program officer at the National Science Foundation, which funded the project along with other countries of the Gemini Observatory partnership.
Astronomers have started studying previously known planetary systems with the help of GPI. In 2014, scientists will start a large-scale survey.
World’s most powerful planet-finder turns skyward with help from UCLA astronomers – UCLA (http://goo.gl/bTCbhM)