Direct detection and spectral characterization of extrasolar planets is one of the most exciting but also one of the most challenging areas in modern astronomy. For its second-generation instrumentation on the VLT, ESO has supported two phase A studies for a so-called "Planet Finder" dedicated instrument. Based on the results of these two studies, a unique instrument, SPHERE, is now considered for first light in 2010, including a powerful extreme adaptive optics system, various coronagraphs, an infrared differential imaging camera (IRDIS), an infrared integral field spectrograph (IFS) and a visible differential polarimeter (ZIMPOL). INAF-OAPD is responsible for the IFS channel and the Instrument Software and it has a significant role in the science group, with a special responsibility for the organization of the survey to be done in the GTO time.
The Integral Field Spectrograph (IFS), one of the three scientific channels foreseen in the SPHERE design, is a very low resolution spectrograph (R~50) which works in the near IR (950-1350 nm, with possibility to extend up to 1700 nm), an ideal wavelength range for the ground based detection of planetary features. Adequate spectral and spatial sampling of the VLT diffraction limited PSF with low cross talk level is provided by a micro-lens based new concept (BIGRE), developed jointly by astronomers at OAPD and LAM (France). The field of view is about 1.8x1.8 arcsec. SPHERE-IFS is expected to suppress speckle to a contrast of 10^7, with a goal of 10^8 , at a separation of ~0.5 arcsec from a bright star with magnitude J
People: R. Claudi, R. Gratton, A. Baruffolo, E. Giro, S. Desidera, B. Salasnich, D. Fantinel, D. Mesa, M. Bonavita, E. Bozzato, L. Contri, G. Farisato, L. Lessio, G. Martorana.
Collaboration: J-L. Beuzit, D. Mouillet, P. Puget (LAOG-Grenoble), K. Dohlen, J. Antichi, C. Moutou, M. Barbieri (LAM-Marseille), M. Feldt, Th. Henning (MPIA-Heidelberg), H.M. Schmid (ETH-Zurich), M. Turatto, S. Scuderi, P. Bruno (INAF-Catania), E. Cascone (INAF-Capodimonte), V. De Caprio, M Tintori, D. Tresoldi (INAF-Brera) and SPHERE Consortium