The eXTP (enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry) mission is a major project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and China National Space Administration (CNSA) currently performing an extended phase A study and proposed for a launch by 2025 in a low-earth orbit. The eXTP scientific payload envisages a suite of instruments (Spectroscopy Focusing Array, Polarimetry Focusing Array, Large Area Detector and Wide Field Monitor) offering unprecedented simultaneous wide-band X-ray spectral, timing and polarimetry sensitivity. A large European consortium is contributing to the eXTP study and it is expected to provide key hardware elements, including a Large Area Detector (LAD). The LAD instrument for eXTP is based on the design originally proposed for the LOFT mission within the ESA context. The eXTP/LAD envisages a deployed 3.4 m2 effective area in the 2-30 keV energy range, achieved through the technology of the large-area Silicon Drift Detectors - offering a spectral resolution of up to 200 eV FWHM at 6 keV - and of capillary plate collimators - limiting the field of view to about 1 degree. In this paper we provide an overview of the LAD instrument design, including new elements with respect to the earlier LOFT configuration.
The eXTP (enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry) mission is a major project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and China National Space Administration (CNSA) currently performing an extended phase A study and proposed for a launch by 2025 in a low-earth orbit. The eXTP scientific payload envisages a suite of instruments (Spectroscopy Focusing Array, Polarimetry Focusing Array, Large Area Detector and Wide Field Monitor) offering unprecedented simultaneous wide-band X-ray timing and polarimetry sensitivity. A large European consortium is contributing to the eXTP study and it is expected to provide key hardware elements, including a Wide Field Monitor (WFM). The WFM instrument for eXTP is based on the design originally proposed for the LOFT mission within the ESA context. The eXTP/WFM envisages a wide field X-ray monitor system in the 2-50 keV energy range, achieved through the technology of the large-area Silicon Drift Detectors. The WFM will consist of 3 pairs of coded mask cameras with a total combined Field of View (FoV) of 90×180 degrees at zero response and a source localization accuracy of ~1 arcmin. In this paper we provide an overview of the WFM instrument design, including new elements with respect to the earlier LOFT configuration, and anticipated performance.
The quality of SiFAP (Silicon Fast Astronomical Photometer) at the TNG has already shown its ability to easily detect optical pulses from transitional millisecond pulsars and from other slower neutron stars. Up to now the photometer based on Silicon Photo Multipliers manufactured by Hamamatsu Photonics (MPPC, Multi Pixel Photon Counter) was mounted (on and manually aligned with) a MOS mask at the F/11 focal plane of the telescope. In order to have a more versatile instrument with the possibility to remotely center and point several targets during the night we have decided to build a new mechanical support for the MPPCs and mount it on the Namsyth Interface (NI), where originally OIG and later GIANO were hosted. The MPPC module devoted to observe the target will be placed at the center of the FoV (on-axis), while the reference signal will be collected from a peripheral star in the FoV (Field of view) by means of the MPPC module that will be set at this position by a combination of a linear stage movement and a derotator angle. At the same time we have introduced the option for a polarimetric mode, with a 3rd MPPC module and a polarizing cube beam-splitter that separates the states between this and the on axis MPPC. SiFAP has been developed with 3 independent custom electronic chains for data acquisition, exploiting the 3 different outputs (analog, digital, USB pre-processed) provided by the MPPCs modules. The electronic chain fed by the analog output is able to tag a single photon ToA (Time of Arrival) with a time resolution of 25 ns, while the remaining electronic chains can integrate the signal into time bins from 100 ms down to 20 μs. The absolute time is provided by a GPS unit with a time resolution of 25 ns at 50% of the rising edge of the 1PPS (1 Pulse Per Second) signal which is linked to the UTC (Universal Time Coordinated). Apart from the versatility with the remotely controlled on sky configuration of the MPPCs, the mounting of SiFAP2 at the NI allows for a permanent hosting of the instrument, readily available for observations. The new polarimetric mode will then offer other scientific opportunities that have not been explored so far in high-temporal resolution astronomy.
In the framework of the SHARK project the visible channel is a novel instrument synergic to the NIR channel and exploiting the performances of the LBT XAO at visible wavelengths. The status of the project is presented together with the design study of this innovative instrument optimized for high contrast imaging by means of high frame rate. Its expected results will be presented comparing the simulations with the real data of the “Forerunner” experiment taken at 630nm.
We describe the design, functionalities and commissioning results of the Laser Pointing Camera, developed at INAF-OAR in collaboration with ESO and Astrel for the 4LGSF of the ESO Adaptive Optics Facility. The LPC has proven a fundamental tool during commissioning and operation of the 4LGSF. It allows to calibrate the pointing and focusing models of the four LGS, to reduce to zero the overhead time for the open-loop acquisition of the LGS in the wavefront sensor. During LGS-AO operation it collects regularly the LGS photometry, the LGS fwhm and the cirrus clouds scattering levels.
By recognizing via astrometric software the field stars as well as the multiple LGS, LPC is insensitive to flexures of the laser launch telescope or of the receiver telescope opto-mechanics. We present the Commissioning results of the Laser Pointing Camera, obtained at the ESO VLT during the all 4LGSF Laser Guide Star Units Commissioning, and will discuss its possible extension for the ELT operations.
Residual speckles in adaptive optics (AO) images represent a well known limitation to the achievement of the contrast needed for faint stellar companions detection. Speckles in AO imagery can be the result of either residual atmospheric aberrations, not corrected by the AO, or slowly evolving aberrations induced by the optical system. In this work we take advantage of new high temporal cadence (1 ms) data acquired by the SHARK forerunner experiment at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), to characterize the AO residual speckles at visible waveleghts. By means of an automatic identification of speckles, we study the main statistical properties of AO residuals. In addition, we also study the memory of the process, and thus the clearance time of the atmospheric aberrations, by using information Theory. These information are useful for increasing the realism of numerical simulations aimed at assessing the instrumental performances, and for the application of post-processing techniques on AO imagery.
Every observatory using LGS-AO routinely has the experience of the long time needed to bring and acquire the laser guide star in the wavefront sensor field of view. This is mostly due to the difficulty of creating LGS pointing models, because of the opto-mechanical flexures and hysteresis in the launch and receiver telescope structures. The launch telescopes are normally sitting on the mechanical structure of the larger receiver telescope. The LGS acquisition time is even longer in case of multiple LGS systems. In this framework the optimization of the LGS systems absolute pointing accuracy is relevant to boost the time efficiency of both science and technical observations. In this paper we show the rationale, the design and the feasibility tests of a LGS Pointing Camera (LPC), which has been conceived for the VLT Adaptive Optics Facility 4LGSF project. The LPC would assist in pointing the four LGS, while the VLT is doing the initial active optics cycles to adjust its own optics on a natural star target, after a preset. The LPC allows minimizing the needed accuracy for LGS pointing model calibrations, while allowing to reach sub-arcsec LGS absolute pointing accuracy. This considerably reduces the LGS acquisition time and observations operation overheads. The LPC is a smart CCD camera, fed by a 150mm diameter aperture of a Maksutov telescope, mounted on the top ring of the VLT UT4, running Linux and acting as server for the client 4LGSF. The smart camera is able to recognize within few seconds the sky field using astrometric software, determining the stars and the LGS absolute positions. Upon request it returns the offsets to give to the LGS, to position them at the required sky coordinates. As byproduct goal, once calibrated the LPC can calculate upon request for each LGS, its return flux, its fwhm and the uplink beam scattering levels.
The realization of low-cost instruments with high technical performance is a goal that deserves efforts in an epoch of fast
technological developments. Such instruments can be easily reproduced and therefore allow new research programs to be
opened in several observatories. We realized a fast optical photometer based on the SiPM (Silicon Photo Multiplier)
technology, using commercially available modules. Using low-cost components, we developed a custom electronic chain
to extract the signal produced by a commercial MPPC (Multi Pixel Photon Counter) module produced by Hamamatsu
Photonics to obtain sub-millisecond sampling of the light curve of astronomical sources (typically pulsars). We built a
compact mechanical interface to mount the MPPC at the focal plane of the TNG (Telescopio Nazionale Galileo), using
the space available for the slits of the LRS (Low Resolution Spectrograph). On February 2014 we observed the Crab
pulsar with the TNG with our prototype photometer, deriving its period and the shape of its light curve, in very good
agreement with the results obtained in the past with other much more expensive instruments. After the successful run at
the telescope we describe here the lessons learned and the ideas that burst to optimize this instrument and make it more