As a member of the GPI team I have been working on the first light data for the past several months. The embargoed first light data has now been released and I wanted to share these images.
The incredible aspect of the Beta Pic data is that these images only took a minutes to capture compared to hours of data taken at other comparably large telescopes. Showing just how powerful GPI will be in searching for new planets and disks in the coming years. I am extremely excited to be a part of this team and assisting in the discovery of new exoplanets.
I end this post with this excellent quote from Bruce Macintosh, the PI of the GPI instrument – “Some day, there will be an instrument that will look a lot like GPI, on a telescope in space. And the images and spectra that will come out of that instrument will show a little blue dot that is another Earth.”
The fact is, that we live in a political climate where research funding (apart from defense spending) is questioned and looked at suspiciously. The canadian research agency recently announced that it will only fund relevant research i.e. apparently stuff with commercial value (read this great BAD Astronomy article on it).
Articles detailing the specific value of a science can seem to some as trite and missing the bigger picture but as scientists it would be good to read what direct benefits our field has had for the wider populace. If nothing else to answer questions related to why the public should fund basic science. A common question I get asked both here in the US and when I travel home to India is, ‘You actually get paid to do this?’. As if studying astronomy and trying to answer some of our most fundamental questions is somehow an unworthy task :/.