The Gemini community has embarked on a broad, multi-faceted search for planets around other stars. The prospect of answering the age-old question of how common solar systems like our own are in the universe captured the imaginations of astronomers who attended the June 2003 Aspen meeting, where new capabilities for the Gemini telescopes were imagined. In preparation for the next generation of planet-finding instruments, Gemini Observatory is actively looking for sub-stellar mass companions using the existing Adaptive Optics (AO) system Altair on Gemini North, and building the specialized near-infrared coronagraph (NICI) with its own AO system for Gemini South. The Altair Laser Guide Star (LGS) system is now commissioned for use in science applications using the Near Infrared Imager (NIRI) on Gemini North.
NICI is a dual-channel near-infrared imager and coronagraph. It uses an on-board curvature wavefront sensing AO system to produce near-diffraction-limited images and minimize scattered light. NICI has two Aladdin-2 InSb arrays sensitive from 1 to 5 micron