Adaptive Optics

The exoplanet Beta Pictoris b. And yet it moves
Published 12/5/2019 in Gemini Planet Imager Author Franck Marchis
Eric Nielsen, formerly a post-doc at the SETI Institute and now a researcher at Stanford University, led a study of the planet beta Pictoris b that combined direct observation of the planet recorded with the Gemini Planet Imager with additional data from space and ground-based observations. The team estimated the mass of this distant planet to be eight to sixteen times that of Jupiter and found that it likely has an elliptical orbit. A video shows the motion of the planet around its star, something that was inconceivable fifteen years ago. Since it was installed on the Gemini-South telescope in 2013,... read more ❯

SETI Alumni: Portrait of Sarah Blunt
Published 5/5/2017 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Sarah Blunt, REU student class of 2015, is today a full member of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey. Together with SETI researcher Eric Nielsen and Franck Marchis, she has developed an innovative method to fit the orbits of directly imaged exoplanets. She has published her work in Astronomical Journal and is a recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship that will fund her graduate school. Here her story. Every year the SETI Institute hosts several interns who work with our researchers through a Research Experience for Undergraduates (or REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation. We often wonder what... read more ❯

How GPI Works to See Planets
Published 8/6/2015 in Gemini Planet Imager Author S. Mark Ammons
I sometimes compare the challenge of directly detecting a Jupiter orbiting a nearby star to finding a glowing needle in a haystack.  Oh, and by the way, the haystack is on fire. It's about as hard as seeing a candle a foot away from a spotlight (1 million candlepower) at a distance of 100 miles. Why is doing this so difficult?  There are three primary reasons: 1.  We observe through atmospheric turbulence, which blurs our view of the star-planet system and scatters starlight, obscuring the faint planet beneath. 2.  Light obeys a wave property called diffraction, which scatters light from a planet's host star throughout the image, obscuring the planet.  This effect... read more ❯

GPI Technology: Gemini Planet Imager Adaptive Optics uses Boston Micromachines MEMS deformable mirror
Published 2/8/2014 in Gemini Planet Imager Author Franck Marchis
Adapted from Boston Micromachines Corporation press release CAMBRIDGE, MA--(Marketwired - Feb 3, 2014) - Boston Micromachines Corporation (BMC), a leading provider of MEMS-based deformable mirror (DM) products, adaptive optics (AO) systems and scientific instruments, announced on Feb. 3 2014 that its 4K-DM is currently installed and is being used in the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). Deployed on one of the world's largest telescopes, the 8-meter Gemini South telescope located in the Chilean Andes, GPI is a scientific instrument which detects light from extrasolar planets. Custom... read more ❯

The Next Step in Exoplanetary Science: Imaging New Worlds
Published 12/27/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
In 2003, I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of astronomers that met at the University of California at Berkeley to brainstorm on an innovative idea: the design of an instrument to image and characterize planets around other stars, called exoplanets, using a telescope in the 8 – 10 meter class. A decade later, such an instrument became reality with the arrival of the Gemini Planet Imager (called also GPI, or “Gee-pie”) instrument at the Gemini South telescope in Chile. Five known planetary systems imaged with current adaptive optics systems. Fomalhaut shown on... read more ❯

Asteroid Minerva finds its magical weapons in the sky
Published 12/20/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
The International Astronomical Union has chosen the names Aegis and Gorgoneion for the two moons of the asteroid (93) Minerva.  My team discovered the small moons in 2009 using the W. M. Keck Telescope and its adaptive optics system. We proposed the names after receiving input from the public. Astronomer J.C. Watson discovered (93) Minerva, a large 150 km diameter asteroid located in the main belt, on Aug. 24, 1867... read more ❯

Everything you need to know about asteroids at the AGU Fall Meeting
Published 12/9/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
It is this time of the year again... I am convening and chairing a session on Asteroids entitled "Characterizing Small Solar System Bodies" tomorrow Tuesday at the December 9th at AGU Fall Meeting. It will be composed of nine talks presented in the morning and twenty posters Characterizing Small Solar System Bodies in the afternoon. This session will be an opportunity to discuss recent results in the field of asteroids and other small solar system bodies (SSSBs). The composition and physical properties of SSSBs, remnants of the formation of planets, are key to better understand our solar system. Increased knowledge of their surface... read more ❯

How we collaborate with a group of amateur space sleuths to study the triple asteroid (87) Sylvia
Published 10/13/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
I am back from the 45th annual Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver, Colorado, where I presented my findings on the study of the triple asteroid system (87) Sylvia through a poster and in a press conference (video here). Located in the asteroid main-belt, we know that (87) Sylvia possesses two moons since our publication in Nature Journal in 2005. Our team  has combined observations from professional-class telescopes and from small telescopes used by amateur astronomers to reveal that this 270-km diameter main-belt asteroid has a complex interior, probably linked to the way the multiple system was formed. Artistic... read more ❯

Progress on the GPI exoplanet imager integration
Published 3/19/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a next generation adaptive optics instrument being built for the Gemini Observatory. This is an ambitious project with the goal of directly imaging extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. The instrument is currently being integrated at the University of California at Santa Cruz. After more than a year of testing in a fixed orientation in a clean room, on March 7, 2013, the 2,030 kg instrument was set up on a crane and flexure rig. In collaboration with the UCSC team, we prepared this time lapse video showing GPI being set up in its new position. [caption... read more ❯

Another fireball on Jupiter?
Published 9/10/2012 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
An amateur astronomer reported the visual detection of a fireball on Jupiter at 11:35 UT (September 10 2012) last night. It was confirmed on a video recorded from Texas. This is the 6th impact of Jupiter detected so far. Astronomer Dan Petersen saw today September 10 2012 at  11:35 UT a bright flash on Jupiter which lasted 1 or 2 seconds. It estimated its... read more ❯