Since 2000, I have been a member of the NSF Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO), based at UC Santa Cruz. One of our major accomplishments is a successful bid to build what we now call the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI; formerly known as Extreme Adaptive Optics Coronagraph, or ExAOC). GPI is a new science instrument that will exploit the next generation of adaptive optics technology, coronagraphy and detectors. When it is installed on the Gemini South telescope, GPI will directly image light from extrasolar planets. I am a member of the GPI science team, headed by James Graham. To learn more, please go to the GPI web site (yes, I am also in charge of the GPI web site, in case you notice any resemblances).
Below is a simulation of how an extrasolar planet (circled) would be detected very near a bright star using the GPI adaptive optics system and coronagraph.