Saturday, February 12, 2011
Planets, planets everywhere, but what do you use to look at them with?
Telescopes. Or more specifically, the multi-million dollar plug and play instruments that telescopes use.
You see, telescopes are platforms for equipment.
Electromagnetic radiation (light, x-rays, radio waves, etc.)is gathered in for other devices to record the data.
Picture a telescope, like the big optical telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Big mirrors and lenses focus light onto a focal point. That light is then looked at by multiple devices that are searching the skies for different things.
One device might be calibrated to figure out the difference in emissions across a stars surface, others might be looking for specific wavelengths of light in nebulae.
And others will look for planets in other solar systems.
The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) will provide near InfraRed adaptive optics-corrected coronagraphic high contrast imaging to enable searches and characterization of extra-solar planets.
And it will be hooked up to the Gemini Observatory, with it's telescopes in Chile and Hawaii.
Built by Americans, Brits and Canadians, this device will change how we view the universe.
We are now at the radio part of the post.
In early January I went up the hill to the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, on Vancouver Island, BC, to check out the Gemini Planet Imager.
In a basement lab space sat the device, a big blue metal box that looked about the size of a large welding rig pulled behind standard truck.
(Sorry, no pictures. I have a hard enough time handling my microphone.)
I met up with Les Saddlemyer. He's the HIA Project Manager and Systems Engineer for GPI. Or, the excited guy who is 6 years into a project that will take another few to complete, but man when it's done, we'll have a whole new galaxy!
Les and his team and his team were prepping the big blue box for it's move to UC Santa Cruz Laboratory for Adaptive Optics. THe GPI should be up and running by late 2012
Big geek that I am, I was really excited.
Take a listen.
In case you're interested, this is a simulation of a GPI image