51 Eridani b is the lowest-mass planet ever imaged. It is also the coldest imaged planet (800 degrees Fahrenheit). It shows the strongest atmospheric methane signal on record. Previous Jupiter-like exoplanets had only faint traces of methane.
Dmitry Savransky, a member of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute: Pale Blue Dot and Beyond, co-leads the observing and operations subteam of the GPI Exoplanet Survey (GPIES). He wrote software for the instrument to align itself automatically, which he said is “a necessary step in the process of blocking starlight to detect planets.”
“This exoplanet project happens to be my favorite,” said Savransky ’04, Cornell assistant professor of mechanical engineering. In addition to having a Cornell server host observation software tools, Savransky provides remote support to the survey’s observing teams in Chile.
Detected and directly imaged by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), 51 Eridani b shares characteristics of a young Jupiter. GPI, led by Stanford University physics professor Bruce Macintosh, announced the discovery in the journal Science, Aug. 13.
GPI was designed to discover and analyze faint, young planets orbiting bright stars.