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The world’s most powerful planet-hunting instrument shows off its first images

08
Jan
2014

The image above might not look like much, but what it shows is in fact stunning: a 10-million-year-old planet called Beta Pictorus b, located around 63 light years from Earth, orbiting around its giant parent star. And images like this one are poised to become much more common, thanks to the launch of a camera thatll vastly improve our abilities to detect far-off planetary systems. The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), a collaborative international effort among institutions including NASA, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of California, Berkeley, has been in development for nearly a decade. The instrument is specifically designed to detect infrared radiation (allowing it to readily spot young planets still glowing brightly from their formation) and actually masks light emitted by parent stars that would otherwise block or distort a planet.

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