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Astronomy Colloquium: Direct Imaging of Extrasolar Planets and the Gemini Planet Imager

Thursday, February 26, 2015
12:00 AM
411 West Hall

With current technology, young (<100 Myr) planets can be directly imaged - resolved from their parent star - in the near-infrared with adaptive optics. I will discuss results from such imaging, particularly the four-planet system orbiting HR8799. The outer two planets have been characterized spectroscopically using adaptive optics on the Keck telescope, showing non-equilibrium chemistry as well as evidence of composition enhanced in C/O from the original stellar nebula.

The next step in direct imaging is Gemini Planet Imager and its counterparts on other telescopes. GPI is a a facility-class instrument operating on the Gemini South telescope, combining advanced adaptive optics with a coronagraph and near-infrared integral field spectrograph. Almost an order of magnitude more sensitive than current instruments, GPI had first light in November 2013. I will present an overview of the instrument and early science results including the orbit and spectrum of the planet Beta Pictoris b, polarization of the HR4796A circumstellar dust disk, and the status of the 600-star GPI Exoplanet Survey.

Bruce Macintosh (Stanford University)