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.
In support of the European space agency (ESA) Euclid mission, NASA is responsible for the evaluation of the H2RG mercury cadmium telluride (MCT) detectors and electronics assemblies fabricated by Teledyne imaging systems. The detector evaluation is performed in the detector characterization laboratory (DCL) at the NASA Goddard space flight center (GSFC) in close collaboration with engineers and scientists from the jet propulsion laboratory (JPL) and the Euclid project. The Euclid near infrared spectrometer and imaging photometer (NISP) will perform large area optical and spectroscopic sky surveys in the 0.9-2.02 μm infrared (IR) region. The NISP instrument will contain sixteen detector arrays each coupled to a Teledyne SIDECAR application specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The focal plane will operate at 100K and the SIDECAR ASIC will be in close proximity operating at a slightly higher temperature of 137K. This paper will describe the test configuration, performance tests and results of the latest engineering run, also known as pilot run 3 (PR3), consisting of four H2RG detectors operating simultaneously. Performance data will be presented on; noise, spectral quantum efficiency, dark current, persistence, pixel yield, pixel to pixel uniformity, linearity, inter pixel crosstalk, full well and dynamic range, power dissipation, thermal response and unit cell input sensitivity.
Cleanliness specifications for infrared detector arrays are usually so stringent that effects are neglibile. However, the specifications determine only the level of particulates and areal density of molecular layer on the surface, but the chemical composition of these contaminants are not specified. Here, we use a model to assess the impact on system quantum efficiency from possible contaminants that could accidentally transfer or cryopump to the detector during instrument or spacecraft testing and on orbit operation. Contaminant layers thin enough to meet typical specifications, < 0.5μgram/cm<sup>2</sup>, have a negligible effect on the net quantum efficiency of the detector, provided that the contaminant does not react with the detector surface, Performance impacts from these contaminant plating onto the surface become important for thicknesses 5 - 50μgram/cm<sup>2</sup>. Importantly, detectable change in the ”ripple” of the anti reflection coating occurs at these coverages and can enhance the system quantum efficiency. This is a factor 10 less coverage for which loss from molecular absorption lines is important. Thus, should contamination be suspected during instrument test or flight, detailed modelling of the layer on the detector and response to very well known calibrations sources would be useful to determine the impact on detector performance.