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In astronomy the only way to get a bigger signal is to build a bigger telescope or make a better camera for an existing telescope. While larger telescopes come roughly once every 30 years, better instruments and especially better detectors can be updated much more rapidly, leading to startling advances. I will present my group’s work developing an entirely new kind of camera based on a revolutionary new photon sensor, known as a Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors, or MKIDs. These detectors are made of platinum silicide superconductors and operate 0.1 degrees above absolute zero and are the most powerful optical and near-IR photon detectors on the planet. I will also discuss how my group is using MKID cameras to directly image exoplanets around the nearest stars.
I will discuss some of the latest work in my group to improve the performance of MKID arrays for UVOIR astronomy. These advances include 20 kpix arrays made of PtSi and Hf, anti-reflection coatings, linear MKID arrays for spectroscopy, and using parametric amplifiers to read out MKIDs.