Seth Richard Meeker
Coronagraphic Planet Finding with Energy Resolving Detectors
University of California in Santa Barbara
We propose to build a 10,000 pixel MKID camera and integrate it with the Project 1640 coronagraph and the PALM-3000 adaptive optics system at the Palomar 200-inch telescope. With some modifications to the Project 1640 system, this will be the world's first visible through near infrared planet finding coronagraph.
Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors (MKIDs) are an emerging superconducting detector technology capable of resolving the energy and arrival time of single photons with no dark current or read noise, and applicable from X-ray to sub-millimeter wavelengths. Our instrument will use an MKID array optimized for observing planets in the optical through near-IR wavelengths. When integrated with the Project 1640 coronagraph, our instrument will provide optical and near-IR spectra of giant planets and serve as a testbed for future ground and space-based planet finding missions.
The impact of this technology will span nearly all wavelengths and fields of astronomy. With their unique capabilities, broad wavelength coverage, and conveniently multiplexable design, MKIDs have the potential to replace traditional semiconductor based detectors. When paired with the high-contrast imaging from Project 1640, this instrument could have a profound impact on exoplanet research, one of the youngest and most intriguing fields in astrophysics. This project promises to not only generate revolutionary new technology, but also to help answer fundamental questions about life in our universe.