The New Era of Exoplanet Direct Imaging

Most of the hundreds of extrasolar planets identified in the past 15 years have been detected indirectly—through careful monitoring of the planets’ effect on their host star’s light. By overcoming the extremely large brightness contrast between the stars and their faint exoplanetary companions, we are now able to actually image these wide-separation exoplanets using large ground-based observatories such as Gemini. I will describe in detail a new generation of astronomical instruments dedicated to this task, spanning observatories across two hemispheres. These instrumentation platforms will allow us to extract detailed spectroscopic information about exoplanets, providing insight into the atmospheric chemistries, compositions, and thermodynamic properties of these objects.  I will also highlight how we are using  completely new discoveries of circumstellar debris disks, analogs of our own Kuiper belt, as signposts for the discovery of new exoplanetary systems. Efforts such as these will allow us to detect and characterize the youngest exoplanetary systems with the ultimate goal of creating a coherent picture of their formation.

Cody Hall

Sasha Hinkley (Caltech)

January 31, 2013
15:00 - 16:00