The Universe Tonight

May 7, 2011 6:00pm
Subaru - National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Dr. Frantz Martinache

New Tools to Image New Worlds

Fifteen years ago, astronomers produced the first convincing evidence supporting the presence of planets orbiting stars like the Sun: we call these newly discovered worlds -extrasolar planets- and now know of over 500 of them. In very little time, what started as a marginal research topic has become a major scientific quest and multiple ground based observing programs and space mission projects now aim at the detection and characterization of extrasolar planets.

We will go over the most successful indirect detection methods used and see what we have learned from these alien worlds. But while these techniques are very powerful, just like you, a lot of astronomers, including me, think that actual pictures would be really cool.

Very recently only (circa 2009) have we however been able to produce actual images of these otherwise very elusive faint dots. Together we will see why it is so darn hard to do, and see what steps we can take to help us get there.

I will introduce one project being developed at the Subaru Telescope:
something we call the Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme Adaptive Optics Project (or SCExAO), and share with you what we are likely to see in the next couple of years in this exciting area of research.


Speaker Bio:

Dr. Frantz Martinache is a French astronomer who completed his PhD and graduated from the University of Marseille in 2005, after a Master in Engineering from the Ales School of Mines. His research is focused on the development of high angular resolution instruments and techniques; for the study of low-mass stars and extrasolar planets. He worked at Haute Provence Observatory, France and at Cornell University, NY before joining the Subaru Telescope as a research fellow in 2008.

On the first Saturday of each month, the Visitor Information Station (VIS) hosts The Universe Tonight, a special presentation on the current research and discoveries occurring on Mauna Kea. The presentation begins at 6:00 PM and is followed by the regular evening stargazing program at the VIS.

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