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High Contrast Imaging 
Welcome to High Contrast Imaging Home

High-contrast (10 or 11 orders of magnitude) imaging systems find their primary application in the search for and imaging of extrasolar planets.

One parsec is the distance at which 1 astronomical unit (AU) subtends 1 arcsec, hence a planet in a 1 AU orbit about a star 10 parsecs from Earth is separated from that star by only 0.1 arcsec. Insofar as the star is far brighter than the planet and both are viewed through clouds of dust that envelop both our own and the distant solar system, an ordinary telescope will be incapable of distinguishing the extrasolar planet from its far brighter neighbor.

This is where high-contrast imaging systems enter the picture. By finding ways to effectively block all but 10-100 parts in a trillion of the direct light from the distant star, these systems make it possible to effectively see the light from the extrasolar planet. And once isolated, this planetary light can be spectrally analyzed to obtain information about the planet and its atmosphere.


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