Camera lenses are increasingly used in wide-field astronomical surveys due to their high performance, wide field-of-view (FOV) unreachable from traditional telescope optics, and modest cost. The machining and assembly tolerances for commercially available optical systems cause a slight misalignment (tilt) between the lens and CCD, resulting in point spread function (PSF) degradation. We have built an automated alignment system (Robotilters) to solve this challenge, optimizing four degrees of freedom—two tilt axes, a separation axis (the distance between the CCD and lens), and the lens focus (the built-in focus of the lens by turning the lens focusing ring, which moves the optical elements relative to one another) in a compact and low-cost package. The Robotilters remove tilt and optimize focus at the sub-10-μm level, are completely automated, take ≈2 h to run, and remain stable for multiple years once aligned. The Robotilters were built for the Evryscope telescope (a 780-MPix 22-camera array with an 8150-sq. deg FOV and continuous 2-min cadence) designed to detect short-timescale events across extremely large sky areas simultaneously. Variance in quality across the image field, especially the corners and edges compared to the center, is a significant challenge in wide-field astronomical surveys like the Evryscope. The individual star PSFs (which typically extend only a few pixels) are highly susceptible to slight increases in optical aberrations in this situation. The Robotilter solution resulted in a limiting magnitude improvement of 0.5 mag in the center of the image and 1.0 mag in the corners for typical Evryscope cameras, with less distorted and smaller PSFs (half the extent in the corners and edges in many cases). We describe the Robotilter mechanical and software design, camera alignment results, long-term stability, and image improvement. The potential for general use in wide-field astronomical surveys is also explored.
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