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Powerful new camera developed to directly image exoplanets

16 Apr 2018, 19:23 UTC
Powerful new camera developed to directly image exoplanets
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The DARKNESS camera, being developed to directly image exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. It is being billed as “the world’s largest and most advanced superconducting camera.” Image: UC Santa Barbara
University of California-Santa Barbara physicist Benjamin Mazin is leading an international team developing what they say is the world’s largest, most sophisticated superconducting camera in a bid to directly image exoplanets orbiting nearby stars.
While NASA is famed for the occasional convoluted acronym, the camera team came up with its own prize winner: DARKNESS, which stands for “DARK-speckle Near-infrared Energy-resolved Superconducting Spectrophotometer.”
“It is the first 10,000-pixel integral field spectrograph designed to overcome the limitations of traditional semiconductor detectors,” UC Santa Barbara said in a release. “It employs Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors that, in conjunction with a large telescope and an adaptive optics system, enable direct imaging of planets around nearby stars.”
The DARKNESS camera can take thousands of images per second without the “read noise” and other factors that affect more traditional cameras. It also can determine the wavelength and arrival time of every photon striking its detector.
“This technology will lower the contrast floor so that we can detect fainter planets,” Mazin said in the UC Santa Barbara release. ...

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