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Posted: Oct 04, 2013
Looking at planets in other solar systems
(Nanowerk News) An EU-funded project is developing direct methods for actually acquiring an image of planets. We could soon be one step closer to answering the age-old question of whether life exists on any other planet beyond Earth.
The direct imaging of planets around other stars is no longer just an astronomer's dream — it has begun in earnest. By discovering such systems, a path will be laid for their characterisation using the next generation of large telescopes, such as the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
Using a combination of techniques, current ground-based telescopes can search closer to target stars for giant exoplanets, or extrasolar planets; i.e. those outside of our own solar system. The EU-funded 'Direct imaging of extrasolar planets from LBT and VLT to E-ELT' (DICE) project set out to characterise new discoveries using direct imaging and spectroscopy at telescope facilities in Europe and the United States.
DICE members are continuing surveys on gas giant planets to investigate the formation and evolution of planetary systems in our own galaxy. In addition, they are developing estimation techniques to increase the detectability of extrasolar planets around their parent star, and researching new techniques to improve the performance of large telescopes.
Already, DICE has developed new ELT techniques that have led to new insight into how wide-field correction could be carried out on large telescopes. A networked set of small telescopes scattered around the ELT can carry out imaging by sections or tomography using multiple lines of sight looking towards bright natural guide stars.
A spin-off project will investigate this correction concept further. Ideally, the final result of DICE will be the discovery of new gas giant exoplanets providing ideal targets for follow-up in the next decade for the next generation of astronomical instruments.