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Andor CCD Deployed on Antarctica Bright Star Survey Telescope

Photonics.com
Jul 2017
BELFAST, Northern Ireland, Aug. 7, 2017 — A custom-designed iKon-XL Astronomy charge-coupled device (CCD) from Andor Technology Ltd. has been successfully deployed on the Antarctica Bright Star Survey Telescope (BSST).

Antarctica is a promising site for planetary transit surveys, where the continuous darkness and the large clear-sky fraction in the winter months greatly enhance the detection efficiency. The Chinese Small Telescope ARray and the Antarctic Survey Telescopes are already operating at the “Dome A” site, but the BSST low-temperature-resistant wide-field robotic telescope aims to increase sky coverage by joining an ongoing planetary transit survey in Antarctica.

The iKon-XL VLA is designed to suit the long-exposure needs of astrophysical surveys that have, until now, been heavily reliant on conventional CCD cameras. Patent-pending ColdSpace technology cools the 16.8-MP sensor to −100 °C, avoiding the need for liquid nitrogen or unreliable cryogenics coolers, while the 12-µm pixels bring maximum photon capture. The result is low noise performance and exceptional extended dynamic range that is complemented by up to 18-bit digitization and up to 95 percent quantum efficiency performance from UV to NIR.

The technology is integrated within the robust, low-maintenance design, making it ideal for many experimental setups, including remote astronomical observing sites. For the Bright Star Survey Telescope in Antarctica, where the continuous darkness and large clear-sky fraction in the winter months greatly enhance the detection efficiency, the equipment has to survive temperatures as low as −80 °C with the mean temperature of −56 °C. Since the mechanical shutter of the iKon-XL must be above 0° C, Andor designed a special thermally-controlled, titanium alloy shutter housing that maintains the temperature of the entire shutter mechanism to within 0.1 °C

“The optical design and tolerance analysis guarantee the quality of BSST,” said Zhengyang Li, T the Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics and Technology in China. “The test observations reveal exceptionally clear single star images with a photometric precision of 3.5-mmag achieved for a magnitude of 11 stars with just 75-s exposures.”

The BSST has now completed test observations, during which the optical design and temperature alignment tolerances were verified. During these trials, the BSST also successfully observed transiting events of two exoplanets called HAT-P-3b and HAT-P-12b.

“Antarctica is a hugely promising site for planetary transit surveys where the continuous darkness and the large clear-sky fraction in the winter months greatly enhance the detection efficiency,” said Colin Coates at Andor. “However, the extreme environment, with a mean temperature of -56° C, brings huge technical challenges that must be overcome. Our custom-designed thermally-controlled shutter housing performed faultlessly and is essential to the success of the BSST.”

Andor Technology is a developer of high-performance imaging cameras as well as microscopy and spectroscopy systems.


GLOSSARY
astronomy
The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
BusinessAndor TechnologyiKon-XLastronomyCCDAntarctica Bright Star Survey TelescopeBSSToptics

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