Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUCLA

Direct Observation of Extrasolar Planets and the Development of the Gemini Planet Imager Integral Field Spectrograph


This thesis is focused on the development and testing of a new instrument capable of finding and characterizing recently-formed Jupiter-sized planets orbiting other stars. To observe these planets, I present the design, construction and testing of the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) Integral Field Spectrograph (IFS). GPI is a facility class instrument for the Gemini Observatory with the primary goal of directly detecting young Jovian planets. The GPI IFS utilizes an infrared transmissive lenslet array to sample a rectangular 2.7 × 2.7 arcsecond field of view and provide low-resolution spectra across five bands between 1 and 2.5 μm. The dispersing element can be replaced with a Wollaston prism to provide broadband polarimetry across the same five filter bands. The IFS construction was based at the University of California, Los Angeles in collaboration with the Université de Montréal, Immervision and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

I will present performance results, from in-lab testing, of the Integral Field Spectrograph (IFS) for the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). The IFS is a large, complex, cryogenic, optical system requiring several years of development and testing. I will present the design and integration of the mechanical and optical performance of the spectrograph optics. The IFS passed its pre-ship review in 2011 and was shipped to University of California, Santa Cruz for integration with the remaining sub-systems of GPI. The UCLA built GPI IFS was integrated with the rest of GPI and is delivering high quality spectral datacubes of GPI's coronagraphic field.

Using the NIRC2 instrument located at the Keck Observatory, my collaborators and I observed the planetary companion to beta Pictoris in L' (3.5--4.1μm). Observations taken in the fall of 2009 and 2012 are used to find the location and inclination of the planet relative to the massive debris disk orbiting beta Pictoris. We find that the planet's orbit has a position angle on the sky of 211.9±0.4 degrees, making the planet misaligned by 2.9±0.5 degrees from the main disk, consistent with other observations that β Pic b is misaligned with the main disk, and part of the misaligned inner disk. In 2009 & 2012 we find a projected orbital separation of 312.8 ± 18.3 and 466.35 ± 8.4 milliarcseconds consistent with an orbital period of ∼ 20 years, and a semi-major axis of ∼ 9 AU as found by Macintosh et al. (2014).

During the first commissioning observations with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), my collaborators and I took the first H-band spectrum of the planetary companion to the nearby young star beta Pictoris. The spectrum has a resolving power of ∼ 45 and demonstrates the distinctive triangular shape of a cool substellar object with low surface gravity. Using atmospheric models, we find an effective temperature of 1650 ± 50K and a surface gravity of log(g) = 4.0 ± 0.25 (cgs units). These values agree well with predictions from planetary evolution models for a gas giant with mass between 10 and 12 MJup and age between 10 and 20 Myrs. The spectrum is very similar to a known low mass field brown dwarf but has more flux at the long wavelength end of the filters compared to models. Given the very high signal-to-noise of our spectrum this likely indicates additional physics such as patchy clouds that need to be included in the model.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View