Snapping a Space Shot

by | Mar 23, 2020 | Exoplanets, Planets | 0 comments

Snapping a Space Shot
A 10,000-pixel MKID array made by the Mazin lab for the DARKNESS instrument at the Palomar 200-inch Telescope. CREDIT:  Ben Mazin

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara are developing new detectors that cram more light sensing pixels into tiny spaces than prior detectors have been able to. These powerful new ultra-sensitive superconducting photon sensors, called MKIDs, have been tested using the Palomar observatory’s 200-inch telescope and will soon be installed on the 8-meter Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. It is hoped their great speed and capabilities will improve the quality of the telescope’s adaptive optics, allowing it to obtain higher resolution images on Earth than has previously been possible. With better sensors and better adaptive optics, they are hoping to better image Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of alien stars. This work is still in its early days, but they believe they will one day be able to detect and characterize temperate, Earth-sized planets around nearby, low mass stars using ground-based massive telescopes.

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