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Successful Key Strategic Mission Support (KSMS) Proposals

NASA solicited Key Strategic Mission Support (KSMS) proposals for 2016A, 2018A, 2019B and again in 2022A. These programs must directly support NASA mission science goals, and not just be larger versions of general science programs.

KSMS projects may support past, present, and/or future missions, similar to past NASA-Keck Key science and general mission support programs. Illustrative examples of relevant programs include, but are not limited to: Kepler and K2 follow-up of confirmed or candidate exoplanets; Voyager post-flyby observations; contemporaneous observations in 2015-2016 of in support of New Horizons; preparatory observations of Jupiter in support of JUNO; preparatory science for JWST; and multi-target surveys in support of the upcoming Euclid, or WFIRST missions.

The 2019B call for KSMS projects excluded proposals in support of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) due to the March 2021 launch date. However, PIs interested in precursor or early follow-up observations for the JWST mission could submit general Mission Support proposals and general observing proposals for semesters 2019B-2021A.

The 2018A call for KSMS projects excluded proposals in support of TESS and JWST to coordinate better with the launch and the public availability of data from TESS and JWST. However, PIs interested in precursor or early follow-up observations for these two missions could propose for general Mission Support projects or general observing.

KSMS programs are allocated a maximum of 15 nights of combined Keck 1 and Keck 2 time per semester. Up to 15 nights total can be allocated for one project or split between several KSMS projects.

The PI, title, abstract, and semesters in which time was awarded for the successful KSMS proposals are listed below.


KSMS programs awarded from 2024A call

Ian Crossfield, University of Kansas - A3C RVs: Atmospheres, Activity, Architectures, and Compositions of Sub-Neptunes with KPF

Time awarded in semesters 2024A, 2024B, 2025A, 2025B

JWST is now the superlative platform for exoplanet characterization since it allows us to finally measure precise atmospheric abundances -- not just of hot Jupiters, but of the sub-Neptunes that are the single most common product of the planet formation process. Precise (>5 sigma) planet masses are needed to place the tightest constraints on retrieved atmospheric properties. However, precise planet masses are a looming, underappreciated bottleneck for JWST; at current rates, the sample of sub-Neptunes ideal for JWST spectroscopy could be exhausted in just two more cycles without new planet confirmations and RV masses. We propose a multi-semester KSMS program to use KPF RVs to measure masses of 26 sub-Neptunes. Our program will keep targets flowing in support of JWST (and future ARIEL) atmospheric spectroscopy, and along the way we will also quantify stellar activity in planet-hosting systems across a range of stellar types that closely tracks the HWO target distribution, measure system architectures, and constrain interior compositions of planets straddling the super-Earth/sub-Neptune boundary. As planet masses are measured, we will rapidly share our results in order to maximize Keck's science impact on the upcoming atmospheric exploration of these intrinsically common, but still little-explored, sub-Neptune exoplanets.

Thayne Currie, University of Texas, San Antonio - Supporting the Roman Space Telescope by Identifying Key, New Targets for the CGI Technological Demonstration

Time awarded in semesters 2024A, 2024B, 2025A, 2025B

This proposal aims to significantly expand the pool of targets amenable to the Roman CGI technological demonstration program from a dedicated high-contrast ground-based imaging pathfinder survey using the leading platforms in the northern hemisphere to detect young jovian planets on solar system scales. A small pilot version of this survey has been an enormous success, already yielding multiple exoplanet and brown dwarf discoveries with a detection rate substantially higher than blind surveys from GPI and SPHERE. Well ahead of Roman's launch, this program will provide the CGI tech demo program with a much larger sample of optically-bright stars with well-characterized exoplanet companions whose contrasts span the range of CGI's likely performance. This survey will also establish a target list for a potential follow-on CGI direct imaging science program comprised of young exoplanets whose optical contrasts are shallower than those of mature planets currently only detected by RV.

Ryan Foley, University of California, Santa Cruz - Keck Infrared Transient Survey

Time awarded in semesters 2024A, 2024B, 2025A, 2025B

The Roman Space Telescope will conduct the first large-scale space-based infrared (IR) time-domain survey, discovering >10,000 supernovae (SNe) and other transients. The James Webb Space Telescope is fully functional and will serendipitously observe transients at the edge of the observable universe. A primary driver for the Roman time-domain survey, and a key mission objective, is to measure the expansion history of the Universe using Type Ia SNe. A lack of useful NIR spectra has limited our ability to predict Roman dark energy constraints. Keck NIR spectra obtained in the last two years have unlocked the potential of IR SN observations, however Roman dark energy constraints will still be systematically limited without several hundred more spectra. Hundreds of NIR spectra for all classes of transients are necessary to classify SNe Ia, measure more precise distances, and better plan the Roman survey to maximize science output. Observations of non Type Ia classes of transients, some of which have essentially no publicly available IR spectra, will significantly improve our understanding of how stars die. Coordinated Keck/NIR and JWST/MIR observations have already produced exciting discoveries in this area. These insights will further improve time-domain GO/GI programs with Roman and the James Webb Space Telescope, including the key science goal to find the first exploding stars after the Big Bang.

Rafael Luque, University of Chicago - THIRSTEE: Understanding the origin and nature of the small exoplanet population

Time awarded in semesters 2024A, 2024B, 2025A, 2025B

Sub-Neptune planets, absent in our solar system but ubiquitous in the Galaxy, remain a mystery. Two contesting hypotheses are able to explain their individual and population-level properties, but they make remarkably different predictions about their origin, location at initial formation, and internal composition. Are sub-Neptunes "gas dwarfs" (Earth-like cores surrounded by large hydrogen-rich envelopes formed near their observed close-in locations) or "water worlds" (planets formed beyond the snow line composed of a 1:1 mixture of ice and rock by mass)? If the latter exist, what are their demographic and individual properties and how do they depend on stellar host type?

Currently, there is no conclusive observational evidence supporting one theory or another, since mass and radius measurements alone are insufficient. However, the atmospheres of these two types of planets would have distinct observable signatures that could break the degeneracy in bulk composition. Additionally, each scenario predicts distinct demographic features as a function of other quantities such as planet equilibrium temperature and stellar host mass. Here, we request time with Keck/KPF that, when combined with our ongoing efforts on other RV instruments worldwide, will empirically test the water world hypothesis. Keck/KPF's extraordinary precision, broad wavelength range, and large aperture size make it the only instrument capable of fulfilling our science goals for the most demanding targets in the northern hemisphere. This program maximizes the scientific return of the TESS and Kepler/K2 missions and ensures that high-priority targets for JWST and Ariel are identified and accurately characterized.

Luke Moore, Boston University - Joint Keck-Juno Observations of Jupiter, Its Moons and Its Magnetosphere

Time awarded in semesters 2024A, 2024B, 2025A, 2025B

This program provides ground-based synoptic context for the Juno mission in the 2024A, 2024B, 2025A and 2025B semesters. The coordinated measurements are timed with Juno operations to provide pertinent information needed for the analysis and interpretation of mission data. The program includes 1) optical spectroscopy of the Io torus as the spacecraft samples the plasma composition in situ; 2) optical and infrared spectroscopy of the satellite atmospheres along the Juno flyby tracks and in jovian eclipse; 3) jovian mapping of global H3+ density/temperature and auroral H2/H3+ velocity surrounding Juno perijoves; and 4) H3+ measurements co-located with and surrounding Juno's ionospheric radio occultations. Some proposed observations would also be concurrent with HST of the Jovian aurora. The Earth-based UV and IR datasets combined with in situ Juno observations would form an unprecedented complete picture of the dynamic and complex jovian magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere system.

KSMS programs awarded from 2022A call

Caitlin Casey, University of Texas, Austin - The Webb Epoch of Reionization Lyman-alpha Survey (WERLS)

Time awarded in semesters 2022A, 2022B, 2023A, 2023B

We propose the Webb Epoch of Reionization Lyman-alpha Survey (WERLS), a spectroscopic redshift survey using MOSFIRE and LRIS, targeting ~800 galaxies embedded within the Epoch of Reionization (EoR) at 6

1) conduct a census of Ly-alpha emission in already identified luminous EoR galaxies (M_UV< -21) to map ionization bubbles in the intergalactic medium at a time when the Universe was partially ionized and on scales much larger than the expected size of ionization bubbles,

2) directly compare the Ly-alpha-inferred location of ionization bubbles to underlying galaxy density maps that will be measured via deep Webb NIRCam imaging to directly constrain the galaxies responsible for reionization, and

3) increase the number of spectroscopically-confirmed bright EoR sources by a factor of ~2-4x within 6

This survey will be conducted in preparation for, and in conjunction with, the largest and deepest extragalactic imaging surveys from the James Webb Space Telescope Cycle 1 and ERS programs covering 0.7deg^2: COSMOS-Webb, PRIMER-UDS, and CEERS. These programs aim to reveal several thousands of EoR galaxies and map their distribution in large scale structure on 10-100Mpc scales. WERLS will focus on already-identified bright galaxies in these surveys, which likely trace the highest mass overdensities to be found by Webb; detection of Lyman-alpha will reveal whether or not they live in ionized bubbles.

Fei Dai, California Institute of Technology - Pinning Down Masses of JWST Ultra-short-period Planets with KPF

Time awarded in semesters 2023B, 2024A

Thanks to their frequent transits and extreme temperatures, the ultra-short-period planets provide an opportunity to characterize rocky planets by measuring their transmission spectra and phase curve variations with the James Webb Space Telescope. Precise mass measurements are necessary for understanding these planets and their atmospheric and surface properties. We propose to measure the masses of 5 USP planets discovered by TESS that are also top-ranking potential JWST targets. We will pin down the masses of these systems to 5--10\% precision. We will share these results promptly with the community to facilitate JWST target selection and results interpretation.

Ryan Foley, University of California, Santa Cruz - Keck Infrared Transient Survey

Time awarded in semesters 2022A, 2022B, 2023A

The Roman Space Telescope will conduct the first large-scale space-based infrared time-domain survey, discovering >10,000 supernovae and other astrophysical transients. A primary driver for the time-domain survey, and a key mission objective, is to measure the expansion history of the Universe using Type Ia supernovae. Despite the promise of IR SN observations, <100 useful NIR spectra exist, limiting our Roman dark energy constraints. Hundreds of NIR spectra for all classes of transients are necessary to classify SNe Ia, measure more precise distances, and better plan the Roman survey to maximize science output. Observations of non-Type Ia classes of transients, some of which have essentially no publicly available infrared spectra, will significantly improve our understanding of how stars die. These insights will further improve time-domain GO/GI programs with Roman and the James Webb Space Telescope, including the key science goal to find the first exploding stars after the Big Bang.

Information on the first data release from this KSMS program, Keck Infrared Transient Survey I: Survey Description and Data Release 1, can be found here.

Carl Schmidt, Boston University - Joint Keck-Juno Observations of Jupiter, its Moons and its Magnetosphere

Time awarded in semesters 2022B, 2023B

This program provides ground-based synoptic context for the Juno mission in the 2022B and 2023B semesters. The coordinated measurements are timed with Juno operations to provide pertinent information needed for the analysis and interpretation of mission data. The program includes 1) optical spectroscopy of the Io torus as the spacecraft samples the plasma composition in situ; 2) optical spectroscopy of the satellite atmospheres along the Juno flyby tracks and in jovian eclipse; 3) jovian mapping of global H3+ density/temperature and auroral H2/H3+ velocity surrounding Juno perijoves; and 4) H3+ measurements co-located with and surrounding Juno's ionospheric radio occultations. Proposed observations would also be concurrent with Hubble Space Telescope measurements of the Jovian aurora. The Earth-based UV and IR datasets combined with in situ Juno observations would form an unprecedented complete picture of the dynamic and complex jovian magnetosphere-ionosphere-thermosphere system.

KSMS programs awarded from 2019B call

Andrew Howard, California Institute of Technology - The TESS-Keck Survey

Time awarded in semesters 2019B, 2020A, 2020B, 2021A

We propose the TESS-Keck Survey (TKS) to measure the masses and orbits of 105 of the planets from the TESS mission. TKS leverages the new population of transiting planets orbiting nearby, bright stars and builds on the legacies of Kepler and K2 to address major outstanding questions in exoplanet astronomy. New planets from TESS will map out range of planet compositions and orbits with higher fidelity than possible before. TKS will emphasize statistical results that flow from a large, well-defined survey over characterization of individual systems though we will undoubtedly characterize and publish some exceptional planetary systems. TKS will directly address these high-level TESS goals. It will focus on three broad science themes: bulk planet composition, system architectures and spectroscopy of exoplanet atmospheres.

Daniel Masters, Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Complete Calibration of the Color-Redshift Relation (C3R2): A Critical Foundation for Weak Lensing Cosmology with WFIRST and Euclid

Time awarded in semesters 2019B, 2020A

A primary objective of both WFIRST and Euclid is to provide a 3D map of the distribution of matter across a significant fraction of the universe from the weak lensing shear field, but to do so requires accurate redshifts to the billions of galaxies that comprise the weak lensing samples of these surveys. The analysis in Masters et al. (2015) showed that a major limitation for photo-z estimation is the lack of representative spectroscopic samples, and inspired our successful NASA Keck program called the Complete Calibration of the Color-Redshift Relation (C3R2) survey. C3R2 has the ambitious goal of comprehensively mapping the empirical galaxy color-redshift relation to the depth of the Euclid mission. Here we propose a 2-semester, 10 night Key Strategic Mission Support program to complete the Euclid calibration in support of both the NASA PCOS and COS science goals. Because more than 80% of the C3R2 allocations to date have been with DEIMOS, this proposal emphasizes the LRIS and MOSFIRE observations required to calibrate galaxies at 1.5

Lauren Weiss, University of Hawaii - Precise Masses, Densities, and Orbits in Multi-Planet Systems with Small Transiting Planets

Time awarded in semesters 2019B, 2020A, 2020B, 2021A

In most of the Kepler multi-planet systems, planets have similar sizes to their neighbors and regular (but non-resonant) orbital spacings. These patterns strongly constrain the credibility of different planet formation theories. However, the masses in these systems are usually unmeasured or only weakly constrained. We propose to measure precise planet masses in a large sample of multi-planet systems with radial velocities from Keck-HIRES. Within individual systems, we will constrain the diversities of the densities and potential compositions of the planets to test the possible histories of planet migration, giant impacts, and photo-evaporation. We will also look for broader patterns within the compositional diversity of multi-planet systems.


KSMS programs awarded from 2018A call

David Bennett, NASA GSFC - Development of the WFIRST Exoplanet Mass Measurement Method

Time awarded in semesters 2018A, 2018B, 2019A

We propose follow-up observations of more than 100 planetary and stellar binary microlensing events in this Key Strategic Mission Support proposal to support the WFIRST mission. A critical feature ofthe WFIRST Exoplanet Microlensing Survey is the ability of WFIRST to identify and determine themass of the discovered exoplanet host stars with high angular resolution imaging. This will enablemost of the planetary systems discovered by WFIRST to be characterized in terms of their host starand planet masses, and their distance between us and the center of the Galaxy. This method had been demonstrated for a handful of events, but we propose a systematic study of the method including techniques to distinguish astrophysical false positives from actual lens star detections. Our proposed observations will also provide mass measurements for about 60 exoplanets discovered by microlensing, as well as a similar number of brown dwarf and stellar companions to stars. These measurements will allow us to provide much more detailed information on the exoplanet mass ratio function for planets on wide orbits. Current measurements of the mass function in this region are insevere conflict with predictions from the core accretion theory. With the data from out proposed observations, we will provide a measurement of the demographics of planets as a function of host starmass and Galactocentric for planets beyond the snow line, where planet formation appears to havebeen more efficient in our solar system.

Ian Crossfield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Precise Masses for K2's Ice Giants Observed by HST and Spitzer

Time awarded in semesters 2018A, 2018B, 2019A, 2019B

Extrasolar ice giants, planets roughly 2-5 times the size of the Earth, are an abundant outcome ofplanet formation, yet they are absent in the Solar System. These planets are also noticeably underrepresented in studies of planetary atmospheres, both because (until recently) few were known and because measurements of their masses and atmospheric properties are more challenging than the"easy" hot Jupiters. We propose to measure precise masses of warm neptunes discovered by the K2 mission that are currently undergoing intensive observations with Spitzer and HST. This program is not a broad survey, but a deep, narrow RV program to measure the masses of a small number ofKepler/K2's key planetary discoveries. With precise planet radii provided by the K2+HST+Spitzertransit observations, and precise planet masses from our HIRES radial velocities, we will be able to convert HST+Spitzer transmission spectroscopy into overall metal enhancement and constraints on planet formation and chemistry.

Daniel Masters, NASA JPL - Complete Calibration of the Color-Redshift Relation (C3R2): A Critical Foundation for Weak Lensing Cosmology with WFIRST and Euclid

Time awarded in semesters 2018A, 2018B

A primary objective of both WFIRST and Euclid is to provide a 3D map of the distribution of matteracross a significant fraction of the universe from the weak lensing shear field, but to do so requiresaccurate redshifts to the billions of galaxies that comprise the weak lensing samples of these surveys. The analysis in Masters et al. (2015) showed that a major limitation for photo-z estimation is the lackof representative spectroscopic samples, and inspired our successful NASA Keck program called theComplete Calibration of the Color-Redshift Relation (C3R2) survey. C3R2 has the ambitious goal ofcomprehensively mapping the empirical galaxy color-redshift relation to the depth of the Euclidmission. Here we propose a 2-semester, 10 night Key Strategic Mission Support program to completethe Euclid calibration in support of both the NASA PCOS and COS science goals. Because more than80% of the C3R2 allocations to date have been with DEIMOS, this proposal emphasizes the LRIS andMOSFIRE observations required to calibrate galaxies at 1.5

Erik Petigura, California Institute of Technology - A Spectroscopic Catalog of Kepler Planets Orbiting Cool Stars: Probing the Physics of Photo-Evaporation

Time awarded in semesters 2018A, 2018B

The Kepler mission found that nearly every Sun-like star has a planet between Earth and Neptune size. To bring the demographics of planets into sharper focus, our group conducted the California-Kepler Survey (CKS), a HIRES survey of >1000 planet-hosting stars (mostly FG-type). With our precise planet radii, we found that small planets have a bimodal size distribution, with a paucity of planets between 1.5--2.0 Earth-radii. Previous theoretical work predicted the radius gap due photo-evaporative sculpting of planet envelopes by XUV radiation. These theories make the clear and testable prediction that the planet distribution in the radius-flux plane should vary as a function of stellar mass. We propose to test this prediction by extending the CKS survey to KM-type stars. CKS-Cool will provide precision properties for ~400 KM-type stars, hosting ~600 planets. CKS-Cool will test photo-evaporation physics and probe the composition, formation, and migration of planets.


KSMS programs awarded from 2016A call

Andrew Howard, California Institute of Technology - Exploring the Compositional Diversity of Small Exoplanets from K2

Time awarded in semesters 2016A, 2016B, 2017A, 2017B

The Kepler Mission discovered thousands of exoplanets and demonstrated that small planets between the size of Earth and Neptune are ubiquitous. Kepler measured precise planet radii, and follow-up Doppler measurements determined planet masses that probed the distribution of small planet densities and compositions. Planets smaller than approximately 1.6 times Earth-size are mostly rocky and larger planets are often low density, presumably due to thick H-He atmospheres. We propose a Key Strategic Mission Support program with HIRES to significantly expand on the mass/radius measurements from the Kepler mission using new planets from the K2 mission. These new planets will map out the transition from gas-dominated to rocky planets with higher fidelity due to the larger number of planets with precise mass measurements. We will probe how this transition depends on host star mass and planet temperature and stellar type, connecting bulk planet composition with planet formation and evolution.

Lucas Paganini, NASA GSFC/Catholic University - Keck/NIRSPEC search for Gaseous Plumes from Europa

Time awarded in semesters 2016B, 2017B

We propose to investigate the gaseous activity of Europa by using the unique high-resolution spectroscopic capability provided by the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSPEC) at the Keck Observatory. We will characterize, or strongly constrain, the chemical composition of gaseous activity from Europa, and attempt to identify the possible physical processes underlying its phenomena. Multiple visits will be needed to assess the temporal behavior, and even existence. These studies will provide information that is critically needed to inform planning for NASA's Europa mission, and will complement studies that are currently underway with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

Daniel Stern, NASA JPL - Calibrating the Galaxy Color-Redshift Relation: A Critical Foundation for Weak Lensing Cosmology with WFIRST and Euclid

Time awarded in semesters 2016A, 2017A

A primary objective of both WFIRST and Euclid is to provide a 3D map of the distribution of matter across a significant fraction of the universe from the weak lensing shear field, but to do so requires accurate distances to billions of galaxies. As shown in Masters, Capak, Stern et al. (2015), current spectroscopic samples are not representative of the Euclid/WFIRST color space, implying that photometric redshift biases can easily dominate all other uncertainties in the weak lensing cosmology experiments. We propose a 4-semester, 20-night Key Strategic Mission Support program, supporting both NASA PCOS and COR science goals, to obtain the necessary galaxy spectroscopy to calibrate the galaxy color-redshift relation. Combined with a coordinated, similarly sized Caltech Keck proposal, the combined program will achieve the photometric redshift calibration requirements of Euclid, and make significant progress towards the WFIRST requirements.


Web Curator and NExScI Cognizant Official: Dr. Dawn Gelino

(last updated May 3rd, 2024 08:29:12)