Gemini Planet Imager Captures Stunning Observations of Planet Systems and Dusty Rings

First Posted: Jan 07, 2015 08:26 AM EST

Scientists are getting in some stunning exoplanet images and spectra from the first year of science operations with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). Now, researchers have shown these new images as the GPI continues its operations.

The scientists actually revealed some of the most detailed images and spectra ever of the multiple planet system HR 8799. In addition, the researchers presented details in the dusty ring of the young star HR 4796A.

"GPI's advanced imaging capabilities have delivered exquisite images and data," said Marshall Perrin, one of the researchers, in a news release. "These improved views are helping us piece together what's going on around these stars, yet also posing many new questions."

The GPI is an advanced instrument that was designed to observe the environments close to bright stars to detect and stupid Jupiter-like exoplanets. In addition, it's focused on studying protostellar material, such as disks and rings, that may lurk next to a star.

In this case, the GPI obtained spectra for two of the planetary members of the HR 8799 system. Yet these spectra present a challenge for astronomers. The scientists report that the shape of the spectra for the two planets differ more profoundly than expected based on their similar colors, indicating significant differences between the companions.

The GPI also examined the dusty ring, and presents an unprecedented level of detail in studies of the ring's polarized light.

"GPI not only sees the disk more clearly than previous instruments, it can also measure how polarized its light appears, which has proven crucial in understanding its physical properties," said Perrin. "These data taken during GPI commissioning show how exquisitely well its polarization mode works for studying disks. Such observations are critical in advancing our understanding of all types and sizes of planetary systems-and ultimately how unique our own solar system might be."

The findings show just how useful GPI will be for continuing studies. For now, the scientists continue to examine the data from GPI to learn a bit more about these planetary systems.

The findings were presented at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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