The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a world-renowned science and engineering institute that marshals some of the world’s brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges.

This grant supports the research team working at Caltech—in partnership with scientists at the W.M. Keck Observatory—to design and develop a high-performance, high-contrast coronagraph module for the Keck Planet Imager and Characterizer System (KPIC).

The KPIC is a novel direct detection system that combines high contrast imaging and high resolution spectroscopy to obtain a full range of measurements on exoplanetary atmospheres.

KPIC relies on imaging techniques with high dispersion coronagraphy (the technique of using a telescopic attachment to block out direct light from a star) to selectively filter starlight and isolate exoplanets from their host star. High resolution spectroscopy then separates the planet’s light to reveal which chemicals (such as oxygen and methane) are present in the atmosphere.