Ben R. Oppenheimer

American Museum of Natural History, New York City, New York, United States

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Publications (152)454.54 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Palomar’s Project 1640 (P1640) is the first stellar coronagraph to regularly use active coronagraphic wavefront control (CWFC). For this it has a hierarchy of offset wavefront sensors (WFS), the most important of which is the higher-order WFS (called CAL), which tracks quasi-static modes between 2-35 cycles-per-aperture. The wavefront is measured in the coronagraph at 0.01 Hz rates, providing slope targets to the upstream Palm 3000 adaptive optics (AO) system. The CWFC handles all non-common path distortions up to the coronagraphic focal plane mask, but does not sense second order modes between the WFSs and the science integral field unit (IFU); these modes determine the system’s current limit. We have two CWFC operating modes: (1) P-mode, where we only control phases, generating double-sided darkholes by correcting to the largest controllable spatial frequencies, and (2) E-mode, where we can control amplitudes and phases, generating single-sided dark-holes in specified regions-of-interest. We describe the performance and limitations of both these modes, and discuss the improvements we are considering going forward.
    No preview · Conference Paper · Aug 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Using the recently installed Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), we have taken the first H-band spectrum of the planetary companion to the nearby young star beta Pictoris. GPI is designed to image and provide low-resolution spectra of Jupiter sized, self-luminous planetary companions around young nearby stars. These observations were taken covering the H-band (1.65 microns). The spectrum has a resolving power of $\sim$ 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 $1650 \pm 50$ K and a surface gravity of $\log(g) = 4.0 \pm 0.25$ (cgs units). These values agree well with predictions from planetary evolution models for a gas giant with mass between 10 and 12 $M_{\rm Jup}$ and age between 10 and 20 Myrs.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal Letters
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first results from the polarimetry mode of the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), which uses a new integral field polarimetry architecture to provide high contrast linear polarimetry with minimal systematic biases between the orthogonal polarizations. We describe the design, data reduction methods, and performance of polarimetry with GPI. Point spread function subtraction via differential polarimetry suppresses unpolarized starlight by a factor of over 100, and provides sensitivity to circumstellar dust reaching the photon noise limit for these observations. In the case of the circumstellar disk around HR 4796A, GPI's advanced adaptive optics system reveals the disk clearly even prior to PSF subtraction. In polarized light, the disk is seen all the way in to its semi-minor axis for the first time. The disk exhibits surprisingly strong asymmetry in polarized intensity, with the west side >9 times brighter than the east side despite the fact that the east side is slightly brighter in total intensity. Based on a synthesis of the total and polarized intensities, we now believe that the west side is closer to us, contrary to most prior interpretations. Forward scattering by relatively large silicate dust particles leads to the strong polarized intensity on the west side, and the ring must be slightly optically thick in order to explain the lower brightness in total intensity there. These findings suggest that the ring is geometrically narrow and dynamically cold, perhaps shepherded by larger bodies in the same manner as Saturn's F ring.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We present the results of both laboratory and on sky astrometric characterization of the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI). This characterization includes measurement of the pixel scale of the integral field spectrograph (IFS), the position of the detector with respect to north, and optical distortion. Two of these three quantities (pixel scale and distortion) were measured in the laboratory using two transparent grids of spots, one with a square pattern and the other with a random pattern. The pixel scale in the laboratory was also estimate using small movements of the artificial star unit (ASU) in the GPI adaptive optics system. On sky, the pixel scale and the north angle are determined using a number of known binary or multiple systems and Solar System objects, a subsample of which had concurrent measurements at Keck Observatory. Our current estimate of the GPI pixel scale is 14.14 $\pm$ 0.01 millarcseconds/pixel, and the north angle is -1.00 $\pm$ 0.03$\deg$. Distortion is shown to be small, with an average positional residual of 0.26 pixels over the field of view, and is corrected using a 5th order polynomial. We also present results from Monte Carlo simulations of the GPI Exoplanet Survey (GPIES) assuming GPI achieves ~1 milliarcsecond relative astrometric precision. We find that with this precision, we will be able to constrain the eccentricities of all detected planets, and possibly determine the underlying eccentricity distribution of widely separated Jovians.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014
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    ABSTRACT: The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) combines extreme adaptive optics, an integral field spectrograph, and a high performance coronagraph to directly image extrasolar planets in the near-infrared. Because the coronagraph blocks most of the light from the star, it prevents the properties of the host star from being measured directly. Instead, satellite spots, which are created by diffraction from a square grid in the pupil plane, can be used to locate the star and extract its spectrum. We describe the techniques implemented into the GPI Data Reduction Pipeline to measure the properties of the satellite spots and discuss the precision of the reconstructed astrometry and spectrophotometry of the occulted star. We find the astrometric precision of the satellite spots in an $H$-band datacube to be $0.05$ pixels and is best when individual satellite spots have a signal to noise ratio (SNR) of $> 20$. In regards to satellite spot spectrophotometry, we find that the total flux from the satellite spots is stable to $\sim 7\%$ and scales linearly with central star brightness and that the shape of the satellite spot spectrum varies on the $2\%$ level.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014
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    ABSTRACT: The Gemini Planet Imager is a dedicated facility for directly imaging and spectroscopically characterizing extrasolar planets. It combines a very high-order adaptive optics system, a diffraction-suppressing coronagraph, and an integral field spectrograph with low spectral resolution but high spatial resolution. Every aspect of the Gemini Planet Imager has been tuned for maximum sensitivity to faint planets near bright stars. During first-light observations, we achieved an estimated H band Strehl ratio of 0.89 and a 5-σ contrast of 10(6) at 0.75 arcseconds and 10(5) at 0.35 arcseconds. Observations of Beta Pictoris clearly detect the planet, Beta Pictoris b, in a single 60-s exposure with minimal postprocessing. Beta Pictoris b is observed at a separation of 434 ± 6 milliarcseconds (mas) and position angle 211.8 ± 0.5°. Fitting the Keplerian orbit of Beta Pic b using the new position together with previous astrometry gives a factor of 3 improvement in most parameters over previous solutions. The planet orbits at a semimajor axis of $${9.0}_{-0.4}^{+0.8}\hspace{0.5em}\mathbf{\boldsymbol{AU}}$$ near the 3:2 resonance with the previously known 6-AU asteroidal belt and is aligned with the inner warped disk. The observations give a 4% probability of a transit of the planet in late 2017.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    B. R. Oppenheimer
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    ABSTRACT: The discovery of the first methane brown dwarf provides a framework for describing the important advances in both fundamental physics and astrophysics that are due to the study of companions of stars. I present a few highlights of the history of this subject along with details of the discovery of the brown dwarf Gliese 229B. The nature of companions of stars is discussed with an attempt to avoid biases induced by anthropocentric nomenclature. With the newer types of remote reconnaissance of nearby stars and their systems of companions, an exciting and perhaps even more profound set of contributions to science is within reach in the near future. This includes an exploration of the diversity of planets in the universe and perhaps soon the first solid evidence for biological activity outside our Solar System.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2014
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    ABSTRACT: The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a dedicated facility for directly imaging and spectroscopically characterizing extrasolar planets. It combines a very high-order adaptive optics system, a diffraction-suppressing coronagraph, and an integral field spectrograph with low spectral resolution but high spatial resolution. Every aspect of GPI has been tuned for maximum sensitivity to faint planets near bright stars. During first light observations, we achieved an estimated H band Strehl ratio of 0.89 and a 5-sigma contrast of $10^6$ at 0.75 arcseconds and $10^5$ at 0.35 arcseconds. Observations of Beta Pictoris clearly detect the planet, Beta Pictoris b, in a single 60-second exposure with minimal post-processing. Beta Pictoris b is observed at a separation of $434 \pm 6$ milli-arcseconds and position angle $211.8 \pm 0.5$ deg. Fitting the Keplerian orbit of Beta Pic b using the new position together with previous astrometry gives a factor of three improvement in most parameters over previous solutions. The planet orbits at a semi-major axis of $9.0^{+0.8}_{-0.4}$ AU near the 3:2 resonance with the previously-known 6 AU asteroidal belt and is aligned with the inner warped disk. The observations give a 4% posterior probability of a transit of the planet in late 2017.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014
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    ABSTRACT: We describe the status of the PALM-3000 adaptive optics facility instrument for the Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory. Since first light in June 2011, PALM-3000 has made significant advances in both performance and sensitivity. Using Strehl ratio as our performance metric, we present results in 64x64 and 32x32 wavefront sensor pupil sampling modes on a range of guide stars from V ~ 3 to 12. We describe our automated reconstructor pipeline tool, which incorporates pupil illumination and an optimal-estimator Baysian approach which serve to boost faint guide star performance. We conclude by presenting initial high-contrast circumstellar disk results from the PHARO vector vortex coronagraph and exoplanet spectra from the P1640 integral field spectrograph.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2013
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    ABSTRACT: P1640 high contrast imaging system on the Palomar 200 inch Telescope consists of an apodized-pupil Lyot coronagraph, the PALM-3000 adaptive optics (P3K-AO), and P1640 Calibrator (CAL). Science images are recorded by an integral field spectrograph covering J-H bands for detecting and characterizing stellar companions. With aberrations from atmosphere corrected by the P3K-AO, instrument performance is limited mainly by the quasi-static speckles due to noncommon path wavefront aberrations for the light to propagate to the P3K-AO wavefront sensor and to the coronagraph mask. The non-common path wavefront aberrations are sensed by CAL, which measures the post-coronagraph E-field using interferometry, and can be effectively corrected by offsetting the P3K-AO deformable mirror target position accordingly. Previously, we have demonstrated using CAL measurements to correct high order wavefront aberrations, which is directly connected to the static speckles in the image plane. Low order wavefront, on the other hand, usually of larger amplitudes, causes light to leak through the coronagraph making the whole image plane brighter. Knowledge error in low order wavefront aberrations can also affect the estimation of the high order wavefront. Even though, CAL is designed to sense efficiently high order wavefront aberrations, the low order wavefront front can be inferred with less sensitivity. Here, we describe our method for estimating both low and high order wavefront aberrations using CAL measurements by propagating the post-coronagraph E-field to a pupil before the coronagraph. We present the results from applying this method to both simulated and experiment data.
    No preview · Conference Paper · Sep 2013
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    ABSTRACT: The Project 1640 instrument on the 200-inch Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory is a coronagraphic instrument with an integral field spectrograph at the back end, designed to find young, self-luminous planets around nearby stars. To reach the necessary contrast for this, the PALM-3000 adaptive optics system corrects for fast atmospheric speckles, while CAL, a phase-shifting interferometer in a Mach-Zehnder configuration, measures the quasistatic components of the complex electric field in the pupil plane following the coronagraphic stop. Two additional sensors measure and control low-order modes. These field measurements may then be combined with a system model and data taken separately using a white-light source internal to the AO system to correct for both phase and amplitude aberrations. Here, we discuss and demonstrate the procedure to maintain a half-plane dark hole in the image plane while the spectrograph is taking data, including initial on-sky performance.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
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    ABSTRACT: ??Andromedae is a B9IVn star at 52?pc for which a faint substellar companion separated by 55?? 2?AU was recently announced. In this work, we present the first spectrum of the companion, "??And? B," using the Project 1640 high-contrast imaging platform. Comparison of our low-resolution YJH-band spectra to empirical brown dwarf spectra suggests an early-L spectral type. Fitting synthetic spectra from PHOENIX model atmospheres to our observed spectrum allows us to constrain the effective temperature to ~2000?K as well as place constraints on the companion surface gravity. Further, we use previously reported log(g) and T eff measurements of the host star to argue that the ??And system has an isochronal age of 220?? 100?Myr, older than the 30?Myr age reported previously. This interpretation of an older age is corroborated by the photometric properties of ??And? B, which appear to be marginally inconsistent with other 10-100?Myr low-gravity L-dwarfs for the spectral type range we derive. In addition, we use Keck aperture masking interferometry combined with published radial velocity measurements to rule out the existence of any tight stellar companions to ??And?A that might be responsible for the system's overluminosity. Further, we show that luminosity enhancements due to a nearly "pole-on" viewing angle coupled with extremely rapid rotation is unlikely. ??And?A is thus consistent with its slightly evolved luminosity class (IV), and we propose here that ??And, with a revised age of 220?? 100?Myr, is an interloper to the 30?Myr Columba association with which it was previously associated. The photometric and spectroscopic evidence for ??And?B combined with our reassessment of the system age implies a substellar companion mass of 50M Jup, consistent with a brown dwarf rather than a planetary-mass companion.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We obtained spectra in the wavelength range λ = 995-1769 nm of all four known planets orbiting the star HR 8799. Using the suite of instrumentation known as Project 1640 on the Palomar 5 m Hale Telescope, we acquired data at two epochs. This allowed for multiple imaging detections of the companions and multiple extractions of low-resolution (R ~ 35) spectra. Data reduction employed two different methods of speckle suppression and spectrum extraction, both yielding results that agree. The spectra do not directly correspond to those of any known objects, although similarities with L and T dwarfs are present, as well as some characteristics similar to planets such as Saturn. We tentatively identify the presence of CH_4 along with NH_3 and/or C_2H_2, and possibly CO_2 or HCN in varying amounts in each component of the system. Other studies suggested red colors for these faint companions, and our data confirm those observations. Cloudy models, based on previous photometric observations, may provide the best explanation for the new data presented here. Notable in our data is that these presumably co-eval objects of similar luminosity have significantly different spectra; the diversity of planets may be greater than previously thought. The techniques and methods employed in this paper represent a new capability to observe and rapidly characterize exoplanetary systems in a routine manner over a broad range of planet masses and separations. These are the first simultaneous spectroscopic observations of multiple planets in a planetary system other than our own.
    No preview · Article · May 2013
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    ABSTRACT: We obtained spectra in the wavelength range λ = 995-1769 nm of all four known planets orbiting the star HR 8799. Using the suite of instrumentation known as Project 1640 on the Palomar 5 m Hale Telescope, we acquired data at two epochs. This allowed for multiple imaging detections of the companions and multiple extractions of low-resolution (R ~ 35) spectra. Data reduction employed two different methods of speckle suppression and spectrum extraction, both yielding results that agree. The spectra do not directly correspond to those of any known objects, although similarities with L and T dwarfs are present, as well as some characteristics similar to planets such as Saturn. We tentatively identify the presence of CH4 along with NH3 and/or C2H2, and possibly CO2 or HCN in varying amounts in each component of the system. Other studies suggested red colors for these faint companions, and our data confirm those observations. Cloudy models, based on previous photometric observations, may provide the best explanation for the new data presented here. Notable in our data is that these presumably co-eval objects of similar luminosity have significantly different spectra; the diversity of planets may be greater than previously thought. The techniques and methods employed in this paper represent a new capability to observe and rapidly characterize exoplanetary systems in a routine manner over a broad range of planet masses and separations. These are the first simultaneous spectroscopic observations of multiple planets in a planetary system other than our own.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2013 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We obtained spectra, in the wavelength range \lambda = 995 - 1769 nm, of all four known planets orbiting the star HR 8799. Using the suite of instrumentation known as Project 1640 on the Palomar 5-m Hale Telescope, we acquired data at two epochs. This allowed for multiple imaging detections of the companions and multiple extractions of low-resolution (R ~ 35) spectra. Data reduction employed two different methods of speckle suppression and spectrum extraction, both yielding results that agree. The spectra do not directly correspond to those of any known objects, although similarities with L and T-dwarfs are present, as well as some characteristics similar to planets such as Saturn. We tentatively identify the presence of CH_4 along with NH_3 and/or C_2H_2, and possibly CO_2 or HCN in varying amounts in each component of the system. Other studies suggested red colors for these faint companions, and our data confirm those observations. Cloudy models, based on previous photometric observations, may provide the best explanation for the new data presented here. Notable in our data is that these presumably co-eval objects of similar luminosity have significantly different spectra; the diversity of planets may be greater than previously thought. The techniques and methods employed in this paper represent a new capability to observe and rapidly characterize exoplanetary systems in a routine manner over a broad range of planet masses and separations. These are the first simultaneous spectroscopic observations of multiple planets in a planetary system other than our own.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013
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    ABSTRACT: We have obtained spectra, in the wavelength range 0.98 - 1.76 microns, of three of the four known putative planets orbiting the star HR 8799. Using the complex suite of instrumentation known as Project 1640 on the Palomar 5-m Hale Telescope, we acquired data at two different epochs for confirmation and data fidelity purposes. This allowed for multiple imaging detections of the companions and multiple extractions of low-resolution (R ~ 40) spectra. Data reduction employed two different methods for speckle suppression and spectrum extraction, both yielding results that agree. The spectra do not directly correspond to those of any known objects, although similarities with L- and T-dwarfs are present, as well as some characteristics similar to planets such as Saturn and Jupiter, but without methane absorption. Recent broad-band photometry of these objects in other studies suggests red colors for these faint companions, and our data confirm those observations. Cloudy models that have recently emerged may provide the best explanation for the spectra observed. An interesting aspect of these spectra is that presumably co-eval objects of similar luminosity have significantly different spectra. This implies that the diversity of planets may be greater than previously known. We note that these spectra represent observations of the early evolution of what may be giant planets, and that the technique and methods employed for this work represent the ability to observe and rapidly characterize exoplanetary systems in a routine manner over a broad range of planet masses and separations for the first time.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2013
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    ABSTRACT: We present adaptive optics photometry and spectra in the JHKL-bands along with high spectral resolution K-band spectroscopy for each component of the Z Canis Majoris system. Our high angular resolution photometry of this very young (<1 Myr) binary, comprised of an FU Ori object and a Herbig Ae/Be star, were gathered shortly after the 2008 outburst while our high resolution spectroscopy was gathered during a quiescent phase. Our photometry conclusively determine that the outburst was due solely to the embedded Herbig Ae/Be member, supporting results from earlier works, and that the optically visible FU Ori component decreased slightly (~30%) in luminosity during the same period, consistent with previous works on the variability of FU Ori type systems. Further, our high-resolution K-band spectra definitively demonstrate that the 2.294 micron CO absorption feature seen in composite spectra of the system is due solely to the FU Ori component, while a prominent CO emission feature at the same wavelength, long suspected to be associated with the innermost regions of a circumstellar accretion disk, can be assigned to the Herbig Ae/Be member. These findings are in contrast to previous analyses (e.g. Malbet et al 2010, Benisty et al. 2010) of this complex system which assigned the CO emission to the FU Ori component.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012 · The Astrophysical Journal Letters
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    ABSTRACT: We report low resolution near infrared spectroscopic observations of the eruptive star FU Orionis using the Integral Field Spectrograph Project 1640 installed at the Palomar Hale telescope. This work focuses on elucidating the nature of the faint source, located 0.5" south of FU Ori, and identified in 2003 as FU Ori S. We first use our observations in conjunction with published data to demonstrate that the two stars are indeed physically associated and form a true binary pair. We then proceed to extract J and H band spectro-photometry using the damped LOCI algorithm, a reduction method tailored for high contrast science with IFS. This is the first communication reporting the high accuracy of this technique, pioneered by the Project 1640 team, on a faint astronomical source. We use our low resolution near infrared spectrum in conjunction with 10.2 micron interferometric data to constrain the infrared excess of FU Ori S. We then focus on estimating the bulk physical properties of FU Ori S. Our models lead to estimates of an object heavily reddened, A_V =8-12, with an effective temperature of ~ 4000-6500 K . Finally we put these results in the context of the FU Ori N-S system and argue that our analysis provides evidence that FU Ori S might be the more massive component of this binary system
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: The Gemini Planet Imager is a next-generation instrument for the direct detection and characterization of young warm exoplanets, designed to be an order of magnitude more sensitive than existing facilities. It combines a 1700-actuator adaptive optics system, an apodized-pupil Lyot coronagraph, a precision interferometric infrared wavefront sensor, and a integral field spectrograph. All hardware and software subsystems are now complete and undergoing integration and test at UC Santa Cruz. We will present test results on each subsystem and the results of end-to-end testing. In laboratory testing, GPI has achieved a raw contrast (without post-processing) of 10(-6) 5 sigma at 0.4 '', and with multiwavelength speckle suppression, 2x10(-7) at the same separation.
    No preview · Conference Paper · Sep 2012
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    ABSTRACT: Small-angle coronagraphy is technically and scientifically appealing because it enables the use of smaller telescopes, allows covering wider wavelength ranges, and potentially increases the yield and completeness of circumstellar environment - exoplanets and disks - detection and characterization campaigns. However, opening up this new parameter space is challenging. Here we will review the four posts of high contrast imaging and their intricate interactions at very small angles (within the first 4 resolution elements from the star). The four posts are: choice of coronagraph, optimized wavefront control, observing strategy, and post-processing methods. After detailing each of the four foundations, we will present the lessons learned from the 10+ years of operations of zeroth and first-generation adaptive optics systems. We will then tentatively show how informative the current integration of second-generation adaptive optics system is, and which lessons can already be drawn from this fresh experience. Then, we will review the current state of the art, by presenting world record contrasts obtained in the framework of technological demonstrations for space-based exoplanet imaging and characterization mission concepts. Finally, we will conclude by emphasizing the importance of the cross-breeding between techniques developed for both ground-based and space-based projects, which is relevant for future high contrast imaging instruments and facilities in space or on the ground.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2012 · Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering

Publication Stats

3k Citations
454.54 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2002-2014
    • American Museum of Natural History
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1995-2012
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Jet Propulsion Laboratory
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 1997-2010
    • Columbia University
      • Department of Physics
      New York, New York, United States
  • 2000-2008
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Department of Astronomy
      Berkeley, CA, United States
  • 2006-2007
    • University of California, Santa Cruz
      • Center for Adaptive Optics
      Santa Cruz, California, United States
  • 2003
    • Space Telescope Science Institute
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 2001
    • University of Cambridge
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom