News & AnalysisAstronomy

Rival Detectors Prepare to Take Snapshots of Distant Worlds

Science  21 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6173, pp. 833
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6173.833

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Summary

In the coming months on two mountaintops in Chile, two new state-of-the-art instruments—the North American Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) and the European SPHERE—will start scanning the skies for planets around other stars. The vast majority of the roughly 1000 exoplanets identified so far have been found using indirect methods because starlight swamps their faint optical signals. GPI and SPHERE, however, will see planets directly. Fixed to two of the world's biggest telescopes, they push optical technology to the limit. They are likely to be the prime instruments for exoplanet imaging until the next generation of 30- to 40-meter extremely large telescopes start observing in the 2020s.