Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors, or MKIDS, have the ability to simultaneous resolve the wavelength of individual photons and time tag photons with microsecond precision. This opens up a number of exciting new possibilities and efficiency gains for optical/IR astronomy. In this paper we describe a plan to take the MKID technology, which we have demonstrated on the Palomar, Lick, and Subaru Telescopes, out of the realm of private instruments usable only by experts. Our goal is to incorporate MKIDs into a facility-class instrument at the Keck 1 Telescope that can be used by a large part of the astronomical community. This new instrument, the Keck Radiometer Array using KID ENergy Sensors (KRAKENS), will be a 30 kpix integral field spectrograph (IFS) with a 42.5” x 45” field of view, extraordinarily wide wavelength coverage from 380-1350 nm, and a spectral resolution R=λ/▵λ > 20 at 400 nm. Future add on modules could enable polarimetry and higher spectral resolution. KRAKENS will be built using the same style MKID arrays, cryostat, and similar readout electronics to those used in the successful 10 kpix DARKNESS instrument at Palomar and 20 kpix MEC instrument at Subaru, significantly reducing the technical risk.
Robo-AO is the first astronomical laser guide star adaptive optics (AO) system designed to operate completely independent of human supervision. A single computer commands the AO system, the laser guide star, visible and near-infrared science cameras (which double as tip-tip sensors), the telescope, and other instrument functions. Autonomous startup and shutdown sequences as well as concatenated visible observations were demonstrated in late 2011. The fully robotic software is currently operating during a month long demonstration of Robo- AO at the Palomar Observatory 60-inch telescope.
We have created a new autonomous laser-guide-star adaptive-optics (AO) instrument on the 60-inch (1.5-m) telescope at Palomar Observatory called Robo-AO. The instrument enables diffraction-limited resolution observing in the visible and near-infrared with the ability to observe well over one-hundred targets per night due to its fully robotic operation. Robo-AO is being used for AO surveys of targets numbering in the thousands, rapid AO imaging of transient events and long-term AO monitoring not feasible on large diameter telescope systems. We have taken advantage of cost-effective advances in deformable mirror and laser technology while engineering Robo-AO with the intention of cloning the system for other few-meter class telescopes around the world.