Planet Hunting

Exoplanets - planets around star other than the sun - are nowadays being found by the dozens and start to be characterized in detail now.

Direct Imaging

SPHERE is a project to directly image extra-solar planets on a VLT unit telescope (UT) on ESO's Paranal observatory. This ambitious goal is achieved by constructing an instrument that offers a unique combination of eXtreme Adaptive Optics (XAO), coronography, and three differential imaging-capable focal plane instruments. The instrument is operated in survey mode and spent about 260 GTO nights searching the sky for nearby planet-forming disks and exo-planets of Jupiter-size and at ages ranging from a few million years to some gigayears. In addition to these exoplanetary topics, SPHERE provides outstanding contributions in the fields of brown dwarfs, stellar formation, discs and jets, small bodies of the solar system, and evolved stars.

The NaCo survey for giant planets around nearby stars is a large GTO project to directly image extra-solar planets in L-band on a VLT unit telescope (UT) at ESO's Paranal observatory. The survey started in December 2015 and is carried out jointly by the three partners of the former PRIMA-DDL consortium: MPIA, LSW, and University of Geneva. The main scientific aim of this survey is the revelation and characterization of the theoretically hypothesized but largely unknown wide-separation (>10au) planet population that may originate from a mix of in-situ formation and early dynamical evolution. Survey observations were completed when NaCo was decommissioned in October 2019. Thus far, ISPY has discovered (published) 4 new close low-mass stellar companions, and confirmed and characterised two GPs originally discovered by SPHERE. Analysis and follow-up observations of companion candidates are ongoing. 

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