The revelation that there are thousands of planets out there, orbiting other stars, is mostly due to the success of the Kepler mission. But now that we know these exoplanets are there, we want to know all about them. We want to know their mass, their temperature, how old they are, and pretty much everything else about them.
Now, a new instrument called the Coronagraphic High Angular Resolution Imaging Spectrograph (CHARIS) has captured the light from one of those exoplanets. This has the researchers excited about what they can see.
“We couldn’t have been more pleased by the results.” – N. Jeremy Kasdin
CHARIS allows astronomers to isolate light reflecting from planets. That’s difficult to do, since they are so much dimmer than the stars they orbit. CHARIS is able to isolate the reflective light from planets larger than Jupiter. Then astronomers can analyze that light to learn about the planet’s age, atmospheric composition, and its size.
“By analyzing the spectrum of a planet, we can really understand a lot about the planet. You can see specific features that can allow you to understand the mass, the temperature, the age of the planet.” – team member Tyler Groff
CHARIS was designed and built by a team led by N. Jeremy Kasdin, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University. It took them five years to build CHARIS. ...