The Gemini Planet Imager Produces Stunning Observations In Its First Year

GPI imaging of the planetary system HR 8799 in K band, showing 3 of the 4 planets. (Planet b is outside the field of view shown here, off to the left.) These data were obtained on November 17, 2013 during the first week of operation of GPI and in relatively challenging weather conditions, but with GPI’s advanced adaptive optics system and coronagraph the planets can still be clearly seen and their spectra measured (see Figure 2). Image Credit: Christian Marois (NRC Canada), Patrick Ingraham (Stanford University) and the GPI Team.

Gemini Observatory
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For release at the American Astronomical Society meeting press confer-ence January 6, 2015, 10:15am (PST)

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Stunning exoplanet images and spectra from the first year of science operations with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) were featured today in a press conference at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, Washington. The Gemini Planet Imager GPI is an advanced instrument designed to observe the environments close to bright stars to detect and study Jupiter-like exoplanets (planets around other stars) and see proto-stellar material (disk, rings) that might be lurking next to the star.

Snowed In

This week was the fourth commissioning run for GPI and I was happy to be back at Gemini to help. When we arrived it was a little cloudy, but just as beautiful as I remembered. This week predicted an unfavorable forecast; the first several nights battled cloud cover and high winds, which meant a lot

SPIE Montreal for the GPI team: work, social event and a landslide of papers

One of the walls of GPI-focused papers at #SPIEastro in Montreal on Monday June 23 (credit: M. Perrin)
One of the walls of GPI-focused papers at #SPIEastro in Montreal on Monday June 23 (credit: M. Perrin)

Hello all,

It was an important week for the Gemini Planet Imager Consortium. Several of us met at SPIE Astro in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to present our work on GPI. Katie Morzinski  wrote a blog post describing the GPI -focused events at the conference, so I will briefly give my perspective.

Arriving at Montreal by train. (credit: F. Marchis)
Arriving at Montreal by train. (credit: F. Marchis)

Gemini Observatory reveals the GPI programs selected for 2014B

Some news from Gemini Observatory,

Gemini Observatory has revealed the list of observing proposals scheduled in 2014B (the second half of 2014)  that will use the GPI instrument. Those programs focused on the search for companions around nearby stars and also stars known to possess a disk and/or a planet by radial velocity. Other groups are using the quality of data provided by GPI to study planets already imaged with previous instruments, such as the HR8799 system and Beta Pic b. Their goal is the study the atmosphere of those planets and also to collect more astrometric positions to refine the orbit of the exoplanet.

Gemini South Telescope on the top of Cerro Pachon (credit: Marshall Perrin)
Gemini South Telescope on the top of Cerro Pachon (credit: Marshall Perrin)

GPI 3rd commissioning run — Astrometric calibration with a little help from MagAO

Astrometric calibration is critical for GPI: When we see a faint dot near a star, the best way to check whether it is a planet orbiting that star, versus whether it is a background star along the same line-of-sight, is to compare the astrometry at a later date. Astrometry means measuring the stars — measuring the exact position in arcseconds and angle from North. But to figure out the size of our pixels on the sky, and the orientation of our camera and which way is North, we have to observe known groups of stars and measure their separations and angles. Then we compare our measurements to those from other instruments and tie that back to basic calibrations done in the lab with pinhole masks to create a common reference frame. This is how we calibrate astrometry.

A handful of faint stars clustered around a bright guide star makes for an excellent astrometric calibration field. These are images of the same field with MagAO/VisAO in z’, MagAO/Clio in H-band, and GPI in H-band. VisAO images courtesy Jared Males, Clio images courtesy KM, and GPI images courtesy Jason Wang.

But the field of view of GPI is very small, and it is hard to find a group of stars that are very close together, that also have a bright enough guide star for the AO system.

Tour of the Telescope

Yesterday, we had a chance to see the telescope in all of its glory. And it is HUGE! It really makes you appreciate the amount of equipment you need to directly image these faint extrasolar planets that are orbiting other stars. Andrew, the telescope operator, then pointed the telescope down so that we could get

GPI 3rd Commissioning Run – Introduction

Hello GPI fans – this is my first post at Cosmic Diary. I’m a NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona and a member of the Gemini Planet Imager science team. While I was at UC-Santa Cruz for my PhD, I worked with the PI, Bruce Macintosh, to develop MEMS deformable mirrors for GPI. These days, I spend a lot of time in Chile commissioning extreme AO systems, which is pretty fun! Specifically, I’m usually working on and blogging about the Magellan AO system, MagAO.

Sunset at Gemini

But this week, I’ve come down to Chile to help with GPI’s 3rd commissioning run. I’m excited to be here and to see GPI on sky!

The orbit of the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b – The first peer-reviewed article with GPI

Following our very successful first light observing runs in late 2013, the first publication based on Gemini Planet Imager observations is now complete!  It has been accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesas part of a special issue on exoplanets, and is now available on Astro-ph. We report in this publication the performance of the Gemini Planet Imager based on the first light tests. The first scientific result demonstrates that right from the start, GPI has been performing well enough to yield new insights into exoplanets: Our astrometric observations from November 2013  gave us important new information on the orbit of the planet Beta Pictoris b.

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Peering at Planets

Astronomers and engineers recently completed building the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) to study distant solar systems. GPI will obtain high-resolution images of extrasolar planets by blocking the light of stars and detecting the faint thermal glow of orbiting planets.

Near-infrared image of Beta Pictoris b, an extrasolar planet approximately 60 light years away. The light of the host star, Beta Pictoris, is blocked in this image to reveal the much fainter light of the planet. Image processing by Christian Marois, NRC Canada.