We characterize a near-infrared C-RED ONE camera from First Light Imaging (FLI). This camera uses a SAPHIRA electron avalanche photo-diode array (e-APD) from Leonardo (previously Selex). To do so, we developed a model of the signal distribution. This model allows a measurement of the gain and the Excess Noise Factor (ENF) independently of preexisting calibration such as the system gain. The results of this study show a gain which is 0.53 ± 0.04 times the gain reported by the manufacturer. The measured ENF is 1.47 ± 0.03 when we expected 1.25. For an avalanche gain of ' 60 and a frame rate larger than 100 Hz, the total noise can be lower than 1 e<sup>-</sup>/frame/pixel. The lowest dark current level is 90e<sup>-</sup>/s/pixel, in agreement with the expected H-band background passing through the camera window. These performance values provide a significant improvement compared to earlier-generation PICNIC camera and allowed us to improve the performance of the Michigan infrared combiner (MIRC) instrument at the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA), as part of our MIRC-X instrumentation project.
MIRC-X is an upgrade of the six-telescope infrared beam combiner at the CHARA telescope array, the world's largest baseline interferometer in the optical/infrared, located at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Los Angeles. The upgraded instrument features an ultra-low noise and fast frame rate infrared camera (SAPHIRA detector) based on e-APD technology. We report the MIRC-X sensitivity upgrade work and first light results in detail focusing on the detector characteristics and software architecture.
We present the design for MYSTIC, the Michigan Young STar Imager at CHARA. MYSTIC will be a K-band, cryogenic, 6-beam combiner for the Georgia State University CHARA telescope array. The design follows the image-plane combination scheme of the MIRC instrument where single-mode fibers bring starlight into a nonredundant fringe pattern to feed a spectrograph. Beams will be injected in polarization-maintaining fibers outside the cryogenic dewar and then be transported through a vacuum feedthrough into the 220K cold volume where combination is achieved and the light is dispersed. We will use a C-RED One camera (First Light Imaging) based on the eAPD SAPHIRA detector to allow for near-photon-counting performance. We also intend to support a 4-telescope mode using a leftover integrated optics component designed for the VLTI-GRAVITY experiment, allowing better sensitivity for the faintest targets. Our primary science driver motivation is to image disks around young stars in order to better understand planet formation and how forming planets might in influence disk structures.
MIRC-X is a new beam combination instrument at the CHARA array that enables 6-telescope interferometric imaging on object classes that until now have been out of reach for milliarcsecond-resolution imaging. As part of an instrumentation effort lead by the University of Exeter and University of Michigan, we equipped the MIRC instrument with an ultra-low read-noise detector system and extended the wavelength range to the J and H- band. The first phase of the MIRC-X commissioning was successfully completed in June 2017. In 2018 we will commission polarisation control to improve the visibility calibration and implement a 'cross-talk resiliant' mode that will minimise visibility cross-talk and enable exoplanet searches using precision closure phases. Here we outline our key science drivers and give an overview about our commissioning timeline. We comment on operational aspects, such as remote observing, and the prospects of co-phased parallel operations with the upcoming MYSTIC combiner.