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.
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.
The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) team held our latest science meeting November 1-2, 2013, right before GPI saw first starlight. The meeting was hosted by the SETI Institute at their office in Mountain View, CA (for those curious, I did not find any signs of aliens there). Continuing with tradition, we took a group picture of the GPI team. You can tell it has grown significantly from the past.
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.
Adapted from Gemini Observatory e-Newscast #53
Gemini’s powerful new instrument for studying planets beyond the Solar System, the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), has successfully received its first starlight for engineering and testing on the night of November 11-12. On-sky observations are currently ongoing for technical integration with the Gemini South telescope. The GPI team (Figure 1) began the 7-night observing run began with a head start, since preliminary pupil and pointing alignments were completed early, due to extensive preparatory work and smooth integration since the instrument arrived at Gemini South in August.
For the last, oh, ten years or so I’ve been working on building a camera to take pictures of planets around distant stars, been lucky enough to be part of a team of the best damn astronomers I’m privileged to know and call my colleagues and my friends. It doesn’t overstate the matter to say this one project has probably been the single largest element of my entire career as a scientist. As we prepare to point that instrument to the sky for the first time this coming week, it’s kind of mind blowing to look back on that past decade of efforts, hopes, and dreams. How on earth did I get here?
Yesterday was a major milestone for the Gemini Planet Imager Project!
Gaston Gausachs, mechanical engineer at Gemini Observatory, sent us this great picture ofGPI, our exoplanet camera hunter, mounted on the Gemini South Telescope. The team reported that it was a flawless and smooth operation.
Since the arrival of the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) at Cerro Pachón, the GPI team had busy September and October months. The instrument was reassembled, aligned, and cooled on September 6. The first “Chilean” image was collected on September 11 and on September 25 the system was bolted on the flexure rig. This is a useful configuration to test the flexure of the instrument and properly correct them before mounting it on the Cassegrain focus of the Gemini South Telescope.
Stephen Goodsell, Gemini Instrumentation Manager, surprised most of the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) team on August 16 at 3am when we received in our mailbox his email announcing that GPI landed to Chile. The crates containing the dismounted instrument (see our previous post) had been loaded in a Boeing 747 from Lan Chile and flew to Lima then Santiago (LA601). After quickly clearing customs, the local GPI team could inspect the crates and determined that they arrived in excellent shape and condition. (more…)
It is happening! The Gemini Planet Imager has been being dismounted, wrapped, and packed for a long trip to Chile. After so many years working on this project, the entire team shared the anxiety of the principal investigator, Bruce Macintosh: GPI is going away…
After a successful pre-shipping review, the instrument has left UCSC, where it was being integrated and tested, for its new home: the Gemini South Telescope on the top of Cerro Pachon in the Chilean Andes.