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GPI at 2016 SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation

GPI is here at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation conference in Edinburgh, Scotland to talk exoplanets and engineering with our colleagues around the world. We have had talks and posters by GPIES team members on topics from AO and instruments to computing and pipelines. This week has also been a great opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss some of the finer points of GPI technical challenges and plans going forward. Here are some pictures from the week:

Edinburgh, Scotland

Bruce gave a great talk on the GPI instrument and GPIES campaign in the instruments session:

Bruce’s talk about the GPI instrument

Vanessa gave a great talk about GPI’s AO performance in the AO session:

Vanessa’s talk about GPI AO


In her talk, I was especially struck by how well the GPI team has continued to monitor and improve the performance of the instrument, throughout the GPIES campaign.

Franck’s poster was about the GPIES project from a systems level:

Franck’s poster about the GPIES project

Marshall’s poster was about the GPIES pipeline and calibration, critical for extracting accurate exoplanet info from the raw data:

Marshall’s poster about the data pipeline and calibrations

Ben’s poster was about an improved algorithm for finding exoplanets particularly close to the star:

Ben’s poster about detecting exoplanets extremely close to their stars

Li-Wei had a poster about using the satellite spots to determine photometry in the polarized mode:

Li-Wei’s poster about calibrating the polarized photometry when using the coronagraph

Max had a poster about polarimetry mode: performance, data reduction, and contrasts:

Max’s poster about calibrating instrumental polarization and GPI’s performance in polarimetric mode

We also took the opportunity to gather 17 of the attending GPIES members for a delicious Indian dinner:

GPIES dinner on Thursday night at the conference

GPIES dinner from Franck’s perspective

I had to add this picture because Dmitry somehow managed to hide in all the dinner pictures

Unfortunately Patrick and Lyra were not able to attend the dinner due to an early bedtime for one or the other, and Stephen was only able to stop by to say hi.

After a conference like this, I always leave full of new ideas and a renewed energy for my work. Thanks GPI and SPIE for a great SPIE!

GPIES May 2016 Observing Run: Women in Astronomy

Hello GPI fans! We are just wrapping up our cloudy, snowy May 2016 GPIES observing run. While the weather wasn’t the best, we accomplished what we could in between the clouds. We also enjoyed the fact that this was the first all-woman run that any of the 5 of us had ever been on. It was a celebration of women in astronomy! EDIT: To clarify, for myself, I often spend 4-6 weeks at a time at the telescope, and I am often the ONLY woman there. So it was quite a novel experience for me!

Winter in Chile means snow in the high mountains to the East, as well as a chance of snow at the slightly lower telescope mountains. Here is a wintery view out my window on the plane ride in:

View out the airplane window from Santiago to La Serena

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Observing planet formation at close range: Gemini Planet Imager’s view of the TW Hya disk

TWHya_GPIpubImage

Investigations of star and planet formation have long focused on the rich stellar nurseries of Taurus, Ophiuchus, Chamaeleon, and a handful of similarly nearby (but lower mass) molecular clouds. These regions, which lie just beyond 100 pc, are collectively host to hundreds of low-mass, pre-main sequence (T Tauri) stars with ages of a few million years and less. They hence provide large samples of stars with orbiting circumstellar disks that span a wide range of evolutionary stages.

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Extreme Solar Systems Featured in Online Press Conference

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Announcement from the AAS

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) will convene an online press conference on Tuesday, 1 December, featuring exciting new results on exoplanets from Extreme Solar Systems III, a conference taking place from 29 November through 4 December 2015 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Hawaii Island.

ExSS III is the third in a series of conferences that began with Extreme Solar Systems in 2007 in Santorini, Greece, and was followed by Extreme Solar Systems II in 2011 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Next week’s conference, like the previous two, will cover all aspects of research on exoplanets. Some 350 researchers from all over the world are registered for the meeting. (more…)

Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey — One Year Into The Survey

Orbital motion of 51 Eri b detected between two H-band observations taken with the Gemini Planet Imager in December 2014 and September 2015. From this motion, and additional observations of the system, the team of astronomers confirmed that this point of light below the star is indeed a planet orbiting 51 Eri and not a brown dwarf passing along our line of sight. (credit: Christian Marois & the GPIES team)
Orbital motion of 51 Eri b detected between two H-band observations taken with the Gemini Planet Imager in December 2014 and September 2015. From this motion, and additional observations of the system, the team of astronomers confirmed that this point of light below the star is indeed a planet orbiting 51 Eri and not a brown dwarf passing along our line of sight. (credit: Christian Marois & the GPIES team)

Orbital motion of 51 Eri b detected between two H-band observations taken with the Gemini Planet Imager in December 2014 and September 2015. From this motion, and additional observations of the system, the team of astronomers confirmed that this point of light below the star is indeed a planet orbiting 51 Eri and not a brown dwarf passing along our line of sight. (credit: Christian Marois & the GPIES team)

Thursday, November 12 2015 – 9:00 am, PST

AAS/SETI Institute press release presented at the DPS 2015 at National Harbor, MD, USA

The Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey (GPIES) is an ambitious three-year study dedicated to imaging young Jupiters and debris disks around nearby stars using the GPI instrument installed on the Gemini South telescope in Chile. On November 12, at the 47th annual meeting of the AAS’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Washington DC, Franck Marchis, Chair of the Exoplanet Research Thrust of the SETI Institute and a scientist involved in the project since 2004, will report on the status of the survey, emphasizing some discoveries made in its first year. (more…)

What do we know about planet formation?

Understanding how planets form in the Universe is one of the main motivations for GPI. Thanks to its advanced design, GPI specializes in finding and studying giant planets that are similar to Jupiter in our solar system. These are the kind of planets whose origin we hope to understand much better after our survey is complete.

Fig1

This artist’s impression shows the formation of a gas giant planet around a young star. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

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What Self-Luminous Planets are Like

[left] Jupiter as it appears to our eyes, in reflected sunlight. [right] Jupiter as it appears at a wavelength of 5 microns.  These long wavelengths are far beyond visible light, in the thermal infrared.

The planets that we are familiar with in our own solar system have evolved, aged, and cooled, for over 4.5 billion years since the Sun and planets formed. What do planets look like at younger ages? Can we use the light that a planet emits to understand its past history?

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How GPI Works to See Planets

GPI instrument at the Cassegrain of the Gemini South telescope. credit: Jerome Maire

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: (more…)

Debris Disks: Searching for Dust to Find Planets

GPI_BP1_1

A star system where gas and dust have formed into a disk around a newly formed star. The leftover disk will most likely form planets, comets and asteroids. Credit: NASA

No one is ever excited when the topic of “dust” is brought up. Usually dust is a hindrance – something you sweep away during spring-cleaning, or an annoyance because your allergies can’t handle it. But for astronomers, finding dust around another star – i.e., circumstellar dust – is like finding the next piece of an interstellar puzzle. That’s because circumstellar dust holds clues to understanding not only the origins of planets outside of our solar system, but also gives us a leg up in figuring out our place in the Universe. (more…)

Hello from AAS!

Happy new year, Internet! I’m starting off the year at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. It’s an annual conference where all the professional astronomers in the United States get together and talk about space! There’s been some really cool presentations, including the discovery of Earth-sized planets in possibly habitable orbits around other stars by Kepler. Sounds pretty cool right?

A subset of the GPI team was here for the AAS. We gave an update on the GPI Exoplanet Survey, presented posters on debris disks and exoplanets imaged by GPI, and even had a press conference on recent GPI results!

In addition to all the GPI results, the GPI team also had a team lunch to talk about starlight subtraction. Even with the star masked out, starlight still diffracts around the coronagraph and hides the faint exoplanets and debris disks that we are trying to see. As you might guess, starlight subtraction is a really important for GPI, especially with the kickoff of the GPI Exoplanet Survey just a couple of months ago. The content of meeting was a bit technical so I’ll spare you the summary here. It was a productive lunch though, and overall it’s been a great conference!

The only good picture is the one in which my eyes are closed.

The GPI Team in Seattle. Photo credit: Marshall Perrin