Gemini Planet Imager: new telescope will photograph distant worlds

Simulation of planets imaged by the Keck Telescope (left) compared to GPI (right). Credit: Christian Marois / Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics and Marshall Perrin/Space Telescope Science Institute
Simulation of planets imaged by the Keck Telescope (left) compared to GPI (right).
Credit: Christian Marois / Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics and Marshall Perrin/Space Telescope Science Institute

For those who wonder about alien worlds out there, this is an exciting time of discovery. The number of exoplanets found so far is now well into the thousands and rapidly growing. The one downside – if you can call it that – is that these planets, with just a few exceptions, have been discovered by methods other than direct imaging. So there are still precious few actual photos of any of these far-off worlds. But a new “extreme” telescope is set to start changing that.

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Colourful exoplanets may be first to show evidence of alien life

Colourful alien life may be the easiest to find. Credit: Don Johnston / Getty Images
Colourful alien life may be the easiest to find. Credit: Don Johnston / Getty Images

Exoplanets are now being discovered on a regular basis, including ones that may be potentially habitable. But when even the nearest ones are so far away compared to the planets in our own solar system, how could they be studied for possible signs of life? Is that even possible?

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