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6 July 2018 Snowballs in Euclid and WFIRST detectors
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Snowballs are transient events observed in HgCdTe detectors with a sudden increase of charge in a few pixels. They appear between consecutive reads of the detector, after which the affected pixels return to their normal behavior. The origin of the snowballs is unknown, but it was speculated that they could be the result of alpha decay of naturally radioactive contaminants in the detectors, but a cosmic ray origin cannot be ruled out. Even though previous studies predicted a low rate of occurrence of these events, and consequently, a minimal impact on science, it is interesting to investigate the cause or causes that may generate snowballs and their impact in detectors designed for future missions. We searched for the presence of snowballs in the dark current data in Euclid and Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) detectors tested in the Detector Characterization Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center. Our investigation shows that for Euclid and WFIRST detectors, there are snowballs that appear only one time, and others than repeat in the same spatial localization. For Euclid detectors, there is a correlation between the snowballs that repeat and bad pixels in the operational masks (pixels that do not fulfill the requirements to pass spectroscopy, photometry noise, quantum efficiency, and/or linearity). The rate of occurrence for a snowball event is about 0.9 snowballs/hr. in Euclid detectors (for the ones that do not have associated bad pixels in the mask), and about 0.7 snowballs/hr. in PV3 Full Array Lot WFIRST detectors.
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