Reaching new heights with 100 consortium publications including the early exoplanet demographics release.

The SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exo-planet REsearch) planet imager(1), currently installed and operating at the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile, aims at imaging and characterizing giant exoplanets and planet-forming disks around stars close to the Sun. This project represents an incredible scientific, technological and human endeavour and accomplishment that started about twenty year ago. Relying on tight specifications and sophisticated developments brought to maturity, including extreme adaptive optics, coronagraphy, polarimetry, differential imaging and integral field spectroscopy, SPHERE has been designed and built by a consortium of twelve major European institutes(2) over more than a decade to achieve unprecedented performances on sky and meet its scientific objectives. The Figure 1 shows key phases of this design and construction phase.

image 1

Top-left: SPHERE at the Nasmyth platform of the Very Large Telescope. Top-right: SPHERE sub-systems: SAXO, the extreme adaptive optics system, ZIMPOL, the Zurich Imaging Polarimeter, IFS, the integral field spectrograph, and IRDIS, the near-infrared imager and spectrograph. Bottom: Pictures from the first Light of SPHERE in Spring 2014 and additional implementation: truck and SPHERE heading to UT3, first Light in the control room, installation of the third toric mirror, and fixing the SPHERE enclosure.

Following its first light in May 2014, SPHERE has been offered to the European community, and rapidly obtained breakthrough results in the domain of planetary formation, exoplanet demographics and physical properties, and on the characterization of minor bodies of the solar system, the environment of evolved stars, and even the central engine of active galactic nuclei(3). The SPHERE consortium played a major role in this success, and is celebrating today its 100th scientific publication(4), together with the release of a series of three articles in the Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal presenting the first phase of the exoplanet demographics survey beyond 10 au that is Saturn’s orbit(5). This achievement represents an important milestone for the SPHERE consortium to reward all individual members and institutes who successfully contributed to each critical step of the project, from the design phase, and the construction, up to the scientific exploitation over the last five years. It allowed training a new generation of young engineers and scientists that allows Europe to be at the edge of this exciting field. It also stands for maintaining SPHERE and its rich and versatile community at the front of high-contrast imaging developments to keep its leadership, and prepare the bright future of ground-based observations on the class of 10 to 40m large telescopes.

image 2

Gallery of astrophysical results from exoplanets, disks, young and evolved stars published by the SPHERE consortium since the SPHERE first light in May 2014.


The laboratoire Lagrange has led the development of the global instrument simulator and the ALC as a part of the NIR coronagraph. Lagrange contributed to the assembly, integration and test of the instrument, to the DRH research effort for IRDIS. It also led the Other Science program and contributed significantly to the data reduction via the data center and participation to data reduction teams. The main contributors are: L. Abe, P. Bendjoya, M. Carbillet, O. Chesneau, J.B. Daban, R. Douet, A. Ferrari, G. Guerri, P. Janin-Potiron, Z. Khorammi, E. Lagadec, R. Ligi, P. Martinez, M. N'Diaye, S. Robbe-Dubois, I. Smith, O. Suarez and F. Vakili.

Contact : Eric Lagadec,


(1) Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exo-planet REsearch,

(2) : IPAG: Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, LAM: Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, LESIA: Laboratoire d’études spatiales et d’instrumentation en astrophysique, Paris, MPIA: Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg, INAF: Instituto Nationale di Astrofisica, INAF-OAPD: Observatorio Astronomico di Padova, ONERA: The French Aerospace Lab, Paris, LAGRANGE: Laboratoire Lagrange, Nice, Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zurich, ASTRON: Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, Observatoire de Genève

(3) : ESO Press Releases from the GTO.

(4) : The 100th publication of the SPHERE consortium is:

  • Langlois, Gratton, Lagrange, Delorme, Boccaletti et al., A&A (2020): The SPHERE infrared survey for exoplanets (SHINE): II- Observations, Data reduction and analysis, Detection performances and early-results

(5) : A key scientific program of SPHERE is the SHINE (SpHere Infrared survey for Exoplanets) program started in 2015, and representing more than 200 nights of large-scale survey at VLT. SHINE is about to complete this endeavour with a systematic exploration of about 500 young, nearby stars that represent ideal laboratories for the study of planetary formation and evolution. The main scientific drivers are: i/ to explore the occurrence of giant planets beyond typically the orbit of Saturn (> 10 au) in the outer regions of exoplanetary systems, ii/ the exploration of young planetary systems architecture, and iii/ the characterization of the physical and atmospheric properties of young Jupiters. In this framework, a first series of three scientific papers published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics Journal release the early results on the first 150 young, nearby stars explored with SHINE.

  • Desidera, Chauvin, Bonavita, Messina, LeCoroller et al., A&A, (2020): The SPHERE infrared survey for exoplanets (SHINE): I- Sample definition and target characterization
  • Langlois, Gratton, Lagrange, Delorme, Boccaletti et al., A&A (2020): The SPHERE infrared survey for exoplanets (SHINE): II- Observations, Data reduction and analysis, Detection performances and early-results
  • Vigan, Fontanive, Meyer, Biller, Bonavita et al., A&A (2020): The SPHERE infrared survey for exoplanets (SHINE): III- The demographics of young giant exoplanets below 300 au with SPHERE