Direct Imaging of Extra-Solar Planets
Twenty years ago, we knew of only one planetary system -- our own. Since then, astronomers have identified nearly 400 extra-solar planets. These discoveries, made by measuring the subtle effects that planets induce on stars, have revealed a remarkable diversityof worlds. The picture is far from complete, however. Direct imaging, which is complementary to other techniques, will help by revealing planets in wide orbits and allowing us to characterize them. Despite daunting technological hurdles, we have now succeeded in taking images and spectra of extra-solar planets for the first time. I will discuss how these exciting discoveries challenge our preconceptions yet again and consider prospects for the near future.