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Exoplanet Camera Now Online 47

The Bad Astronomer writes with news that the Gemini Planet Imager is officially online "The Gemini Planet Imager is a camera that is designed to take direct photos of exoplanets, alien worlds orbiting other stars. In a test run last November it spotted the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b, a dusty ring around a nearby star, and even snapped a portrait of Jupiter's moon Europa. Up to now, only about a dozen exoplanets have been directly imaged; GPI is expected to find dozens more in the next few years." From the Gemini project: "'Even these early first-light images are almost a factor of 10 better than the previous generation of instruments. In one minute, we are seeing planets that used to take us an hour to detect,' says Bruce Macintosh of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who led the team that built the instrument." The announcement has pictures.
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Exoplanet Camera Now Online

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  • Breathtaking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @02:45PM (#45889989) Journal

    Well done, GPI team.

    I don't know about you, but for me this is absolutely thrilling. We're no longer inferring the existence of other planets, we're actually LOOKING at them.

    The word "breathtaking" doesn't cover it.

    And from a ground-based camera...I knew imaging tech is leaping ahead, but this makes me absolutely excited to see what the GPI (and eventually, hopefully, the JWST) will see over the next years.

  • How far we've come (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @03:12PM (#45890325)
    The first exoplanet found orbiting a main sequence star was discovered on 6 October 1995, around 51 Pegasi. []

    It was only detected by gravitational wobble. Prior to that psuedo-exoplanets had been discovered but they involved non-solar system type objects such as pulsars. After the 1995 discovery, scientists slowly made more discoveries based on planetary wobble. At that time, the ability to take pictures like what we have seen in this article seemed farther flung into the future than we are now - if possible at all. But science is persistent and new technologies were developed fast. Now here we are imaging planets as they orbit their stars and the technology to image them continues to accelerate and advance at breakneck speed. If the development of scientific instruments were a race, planet finding and the LHC would at least be neck and neck if not having planet find slightly in the lead. There is preliminary work going on that promises views of extrasolar planets at resolutions as high as viewing the moons of the outer planets with our best telescopes - some say it may be possible to image planets with the resolution of looking back at the Earth from the moon. Is there no obstacle to discovery science cannot overcome? Time will tell. These new ultra-resolution planet find tools are hoped to be developed and ready by 2025, When I consider how far we have come and fast fast, I am inclined to believe we may actually get those images in that timeframe - despite how far fetched that kind of resolution may seem today.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.