Imaging of extrasolar planets: challenges, past and future

Anne-Marie Lagrange (Institut de planetologie et d’astrophysique de Grenoble, IPAG) — December 4, 2014

Searching for and characterizing extrasolar planets is one of the main objectives of today astronomy. Since the first detection of a giant planet around a solar type star in 1995, several hundreds of planets have been detected so far indirectly, i.e. from the analysis of their parent stars properties. Direct imaging, which aims at detecting the planet photons and resolving the planet from the star is a very promising, yet very challenging technique, and only a few planets have been found with this method. The high contrast instrument SPHERE, recently installed on the European Very Large Telescope, will be dedicated to the direct detection and characterization of dozens of planets in the forthcoming years.
I will briefly describe the various indirect methods, the results obtained with these methods and their limits. I will also describe the potential of direct imaging, and the associated challenges. I will review the results obtained so far with direct imaging, and the implications on our understanding of planet formation and evolution. I will finally present the planets imagers of the coming decades: the new generation on 10-m class optical telescopes (SPHERE, GPI), and the ones foreseen on Extremely Large Telescopes (horizon 2025+).

You can also watch this video on the multimedia site ENS: savoirs.ens.fr