New Instrument Sifts Starlight for New Worlds

These two images show HD 157728, a nearby star 1.5 times larger than the sun. These two images show HD 157728, a nearby star 1.5 times larger than the sun. The star is centered in both images, and its light has been mostly removed by an adaptive optics system and coronagraph belonging to Project 1640, which uses new technology on the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch Hale telescope near San Diego, Calif., to spot planets. Image credit: Project 1640
› Full image and caption
  • submit to reddit

July 09, 2012

An advanced telescope imaging system that started taking data in June 2012 is the first of its kind capable of spotting planets orbiting suns outside of our solar system. The collaborative set of high-tech instrumentation and software, called Project 1640, is now operating on the Hale telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, after more than six years of development.

Researchers and engineers behind the project come from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, N.Y., the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena.

The project's first images demonstrate a new technique that creates extremely precise "dark holes" around stars of interest. These dark holes allow researchers to spot planets.

"The more we learn about them, the more we realize how vastly different planetary systems can be from our own," said Gautam Vasisht of JPL. "All indications point to a tremendous diversity of planetary systems, far beyond what was imagined just 10 years ago. We are on the verge of an incredibly rich new field."

Funding for Project 1640 is from NASA, the National Science Foundation, JPL and Caltech Optical Observatories internal development funds, the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program, The Plymouth Foundation, Ron and Glo Helin, and Hilary and Ethel Lipsitz.

Read the full news release from the American Museum of Natural History at .

JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA. More information about exoplanets and NASA's planet-finding program is at .

Whitney Clavin 818-354-4673
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


Scientists Spitzer's SPLASH Project Dives Deep for Galaxies

› Read more

This animation shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets. Space Sunflower May Help Snap Pictures of Planets

› Read more

Gemini Planet ImagerĀ¹s First Light Image of Beta Pictoris b Powerful Planet Finder Turns Its Eye to the Sky

› Read more

Get JPL Updates
Sign Up for JPL UpdatesRegister today and receive up-to-the-minute e-mail alerts delivered directly to your inbox.
Sign Up for JPL Updates