Above: Images of the DARKNESS instrument.
Right: A binary star imaged with DARKNESS. The inset show the binary with the coronagraphic mask removed.
Below: Time lapse images of DARKNESS being assembled and mounted to the P3K bench.
We have used our revolutionary new detector technology, Optical/Near-IR Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors (MKIDs), to build an instrument of unprecedented capabilities for the direct imaging of extrasolar planets. DARKNESS, the Dark-speckle Near-IR Energy-resolved Superconducting Spectrophotometer, integrates with the existing SDC coronagraph at the Palomar 200". DARKNESS will significantly improve the star to planet contrast ratio over what can be achieved with a conventional Integral Field Unit (IFU). Advantages over conventional IFUs include:
1. Vastly simplified optical design with high throughput
2. Operation from 800-1400 nm with energy resolution R~10 at 1 micron allows spectral suppression of speckles
3. Zero read noise and zero dark current photon counting enabling active speckle control and time domain speckle discrimination
Special Thanks to: