“The Gemini Planet Imager has discovered and photographed its first planet, a methane-enshrouded gas giant much like Jupiter that may hold the key to understanding how large planets form in the swirling accretion disks around stars.
The GPI instrument, which is mounted on the 8-meter Gemini South telescope in Chile, is the size of a small car and was designed, built and optimized for imaging and analyzing the atmospheres of faint Jupiter-like planets next to bright stars, thanks to a device that masks the star’s glare.
“This is exactly the kind of planet we envisioned discovering when we designed GPI,” said James Graham, a UC Berkeley professor of astronomy and the GPI project scientist. “We wanted to find planets when they’re young so we can figure out the formation process.”
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