8 August 2016 A high-sensitivity EM-CCD camera for the open port telescope cavity of SOFIA
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Abstract
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has three target acquisition and tracking cameras. All three imagers originally used the same cameras, which did not meet the sensitivity requirements, due to low quantum efficiency and high dark current. The Focal Plane Imager (FPI) suffered the most from high dark current, since it operated in the aircraft cabin at room temperatures without active cooling. In early 2013 the FPI was upgraded with an iXon3 888 from Andor Techonolgy. Compared to the original cameras, the iXon3 has a factor five higher QE, thanks to its back-illuminated sensor, and orders of magnitude lower dark current, due to a thermo-electric cooler and “inverted mode operation." This leads to an increase in sensitivity of about five stellar magnitudes.

The Wide Field Imager (WFI) and Fine Field Imager (FFI) shall now be upgraded with equally sensitive cameras. However, they are exposed to stratospheric conditions in flight (typical conditions: T≈-40° C, p≈ 0:1 atm) and there are no off-the-shelf CCD cameras with the performance of an iXon3, suited for these conditions. Therefore, Andor Technology and the Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI) are jointly developing and qualifying a camera for these conditions, based on the iXon3 888. These changes include replacement of electrical components with MIL-SPEC or industrial grade components and various system optimizations, a new data interface that allows the image data transmission over∼30m of cable from the camera to the controller, a new power converter in the camera to generate all necessary operating voltages of the camera locally and a new housing that fulfills airworthiness requirements. A prototype of this camera has been built and tested in an environmental test chamber at temperatures down to T=-62° C and pressure equivalent to 50 000 ft altitude. In this paper, we will report about the development of the camera and present results from the environmental testing.
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Manuel Wiedemann, Manuel Wiedemann, Jürgen Wolf, Jürgen Wolf, Paul McGrotty, Paul McGrotty, Chris Edwards, Chris Edwards, Alfred Krabbe, Alfred Krabbe, "A high-sensitivity EM-CCD camera for the open port telescope cavity of SOFIA", Proc. SPIE 9906, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes VI, 99061U (8 August 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2231809; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2231809
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