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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Design and Development Status of MKID Integral Field Spectrographs for High Contrast Imaging


We report on the design and development progress of two Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detector (MKID) integral field spectrographs (IFSs) for high-contrast astronomy applications. DARKNESS is a 10,000 pixel MKID IFS that will integrate with the coronagraphs at Palomar Observatory, as well as directly with the Palm- 3000 (P3K) extreme adaptive optics (AO) system. MEC is a 20,440 pixel MKID IFS that will integrate with the Subaru Coronagraphic Extreme AO (SCExAO) system at the Subaru Telescope. Both IFSs are optimized for 700 to 1400 nm bandpasses to provide low resolution spectroscopy across I and J bands. MKIDs are a promising technology for overcoming the current contrast ceiling in coronagraphic instruments imposed by atmospheric speckles that vary on 1-second timescales. These speckles vary too slowly to average out with long exposures, and too quickly to control in real time with conventional focal plane detectors or to subtract reliably with differential imaging. With these instruments we will demonstrate how the high time resolution of MKIDs allows focal plane speckle nulling at the speed necessary to control atmospheric speckles in real time, and discrimination of speckles from faint companions during post-processing using statistical techniques similar to the “dark speckle” approach. Additionally, the energy resolution of MKIDs allows either form of speckle suppression to be applied as a function of wavelength. First-light for DARKNESS is scheduled for July 2016 and first-light for MEC is targeted for Fall 2016/Winter 2017.

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