Keck Planet Finder spectrometer upgrade is underway

The Keck Planet Finder telescope might start operating in 2019. It will be used to discover exoplanets, particularly around nearby, bright stars and will excel at measuring the masses of planets discovered by transiting programs such as Kepler, TESS, and PLATO.

The Keck Planet Finder (KPF) is a spectrometer for the Keck Observatory that will measure the mass of exoplanets with more speed and precision than is possible today.

The Keck Planet Finder will new knowledge about super-Earths—planets more massive than Earth but not as large as Neptune. They also want to determine the composition of exoplanets in the habitable zone and discover new Earth-like planets in nearby star systems.

KPF is a ten-meter telescope that will measure planet masses for stars as faint as ∼15th magnitude. This is hundreds of times fainter than what three-meter telescopes can see.

The Keck Planet Finder is a fiber-fed, high-resolution, high-stability spectrometer in development at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory for the W.M. Keck Observatory. The instrument is designed to characterize exoplanets via Doppler spectroscopy with a single measurement precision of 0.5 meters per second or better, however its resolution and stability will enable a wide variety of astrophysical pursuits. KPF will have a 200 mm collimated beam diameter and a resolving power of over 80,000. The design includes a green channel (440 nm to 590 nm) and red channel (590 nm to 850 nm). A novel design aspect of KPF is the use of a Zerodur optical bench, and Zerodur optics with integral mounts, to provide stability against thermal expansion and contraction effects.