Astronomers have been trying to get a better look at exoplanets for quite a few years now, and they have been coming up with quite a few pieces of improved equipment in their quest to get that look. Now these experts have created the most sensitive piece of equipment to date, the Gemini Planet Imager, which looks specifically at exoplanets in other solar systems, and aimed it at a known exoplanet to see what their newest toy could do.
Unlike telescopes in the past which had to be aimed directly at an object for at least an hour just to yield a photo that needed so much retouching it was almost not worth the effort, when they aimed the GPI at a young star called HR4796A for only one minute, the image they received was much clearer, and required very little retouching to yield the result shown above. Clearly, the GPI will be a far superior instrument for viewing our far off neighbors than its predecessors.
The exciting field of far-distant space study doesn’t end there, as it was announced recently that a new telescope is slated to be built, and when this largest-ever telescope is completed it might even be strong enough to spot alien life on a distant world.
They’ll have plenty of potential planets to choose from, as there are many, many known exosolar worlds. Of course, it won’t be necessary to search them all since there are other tools that scientists can use to figure out which worlds are the best candidates. Using a massive spectroscope to measure the chemical make-up of the planets, scientists will be able to determine which ones are the most likely to harbor life.
This quest for spectroscopic data may be greatly aided by some other new scopes in the field, such as the newly enable NIRSpec instrumentation that was attached to the James Webb Space Telescope in March 2014, or the planned EChO mission slated to launch sometime in 2022.
Ultimately, scientists believe that it is highly likely that alien life exists beyond our solar system. It is hoped that this sophisticated equipment might point the way to finding life, or finding places where mankind could flourish. Spectroscopic analysis is the next step on the way to that discovery.
Below is a video about Kepler finding 715 planets just a couple months ago.