The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) is a CCD mosaic requiring 64 differential output channels to be transmitted to electronics located over 2 m from the CCDs and digitized with less than 10 e- read noise at 1 MHz pixel rate. To minimize pixel overhead, the Reset Gate pulse is generated inside the dewar by a pin driver controlled by a very short pulse using an LVDS interface. Overlapping serial clocks spanning the entire pixel are made entirely triangular with slopes tuned to cancel substrate return current and minimize high frequency content to improve common rejection by the fully differential signal path. We document the trade between settling time after charge dump and linearity and illustrate the desirability of generating both Summing Well and Reset Gate edge close to the CCD. The parallel clocking overhead is exacerbated in ZTF by ganging multiple CCDs but is hidden by overlapping the parallel shift with pixel readout. To suppress fixed pattern due to the concurrent parallel clocks, slow overlapped triangular waveforms panning the entire line time are employed to null the substrate current, in the same manner as the serials. Both noise and speed requirements are exceeded on all 64 channels, with margin. At all pixel rates the median noise is as good as can be expected for differential transmission being √2 times the single sided noise published in the data sheet for the CCD231- C6 CCDs. Linearity is preserved even at 840 ns pixel time, and crosstalk is less than 10 ppm.
The transient universe is fast becoming one of the most important research areas in astronomy. Finding objects that change, either quickly or periodically, has opened up new understanding of the cosmos around us, and brought up new questions that require further investigation. The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) has been developed to observe as much of the sky as possible at a rapid rate, in order to expand the regime of time domain measurement to shorter intervals and detect changes in the sky more quickly.
ZTF is a fully automated system, composed of the Samuel Oschin 48-inch (1.2m) telescope at Palomar Observatory (P48), the mosaic camera constructed by Caltech, a filter exchange system, associated sensors and electrical systems, and the Robotic Observing Software (ROS) that controls the operation of the entire system. P48 is a 70 year old telescope that has been upgraded with new hardware, electronics, and a modern telescope control system to allow it to move quickly and accurately across the sky under robotic control. The ZTF mosaic camera is a custom system composed of 16 6Kx6K pixel CCDs, creating a mosaic camera with over 576 million pixels that can image 47 square degrees down to a magnitude of 20.5 in a 30 second exposure. The filter exchange system uses a Kuka robotic arm to grab the 400x450mm filters out of a storage closet and place them onto the front of the mosaic camera, where they are held in place by electromagnets and locking pins. A full sensor system monitors the health of the camera dewar and environment of the observatory; a separate weather station monitors the outside environment. Other subsystems control the motion of the Hexapod that the mosaic camera is mounted on, the top end shutter, and remote switching of power,
Managing all of these subsystems is ROS, which is the automated control software that runs ZTF observations. ROS is based on the Robo-AO control system, with improved automation procedures and expanded capabilities to handle the operations required for ZTF. ROS consists of 31 separate software daemons spread across 5 computer systems (4 to control the mosaic camera, 1 for robotic operation); the robotic control daemon is able to manage all daemons, as well as start and stop their operation as necessary. Watchdog daemons intervene in case of robotic system problems, and each daemon has an internal watchdog that can fix or kill the daemon in case of difficulties; if a daemon dies the robotic system automatically restarts it. ROS controls the start of observations and morning shut down, handles weather monitoring and safely stopping in case of bad weather, and responds to problems in the observing sequence by fixing them or stopping operations and sending a message for help. All calibration measurements are done automatically at the beginning of the night; if the calibrations are interrupted they are completed after observations finish in the morning. A queue system determines the observation priority and revises the order of observations dynamically to optimize observational efficiency.
ROS is able to operate with less than 15 second overhead between each standard ZTF observation (with a 7.5 degree slew); this is achieved by reading out thee mosaic camera during telescope slew, then transferring and writing FITS data files during the next exposure. FITS headers are kept synchronized through daemons that gather all relevant FITS header information and distribute that to the camera computers. ROS is able to produce more than 80 mosaic science images per hour in standard survey mode; each mosaic is a total of 380MB compressed, so the system produces more than 30GB of data on disk per hour that have to be transferred off the mountain. A new data transfer system synchronizes the compressed FITS data files to the data analysis servers in Pasadena, CA in parallel with the observing system; images are in place for the data analysis pipelines in less than a minute after the ZTF shutter closes.
This presentation will discuss the development and execution of the ZTF observing software, as well as analyze the observational behavior and efficiency of the system during the first few months of on-sky science observations.
The traditional method for measuring CCD non-linearity using constant flux and variable exposure time is compared to a faster and potentially more accurate method that requires just two exposures at low intensity. Signal is varied by parallel-binning a successively greater number of lines. The binned image is compared to a conventional image with identical illumination, co-added digitally in the same pattern. This method requires no shutter calibration and is insensitive to illumination drift or charge transfer inefficiency. With some additional software effort, it can be arranged to tolerate illumination non-uniformity. We present data obtained by both methods for the 64 CD231-C6 outputs and discuss automated performance optimization. We find that the widely held assumption that non-linearity only affects high signals is incorrect when optimizing for minimum gain change over the full signal range, in which case slope increases with signal initially, then peaks in the mid-range before dropping again.
Zwicky Transient Facility is an integrated, multi-band astronomical survey system optimized for sensitivity, observing cadence, and efficiency. The key subsystem consists of a 600 megapixel CCD focal plane mounted in a flat-fielding vacuum cryostat, located at the prime focus of the 1.2-meter Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory. Supporting subsystems include a new 2.4-meter optical shutter assembly, a 1.35-meter diameter aspheric corrector plate, a cryostat stabilizing hexapod, a commercial robotic arm-based exchanger, three 440 millimeter width filters, four guide/focus CCDs, and dedicated optics compensating individual field curvature over each of sixteen 6k x 6k science CCDs.To optimize ZTF efficiency, all telescope and dome drives were upgraded for higher speed and acceleration, fast readout electronics were implemented, and a sophisticated robotic control system has been implemented.
We present for the first time on-sky results from the recently completed ZTF including its realized optical image quality, CCD noise, and observing efficiency performance and discuss engineering challenges that have been overcome. Early scientific results from the ZTF survey are also included.
The Zwicky Transient Facility Camera (ZTFC) is a key element of the ZTF Observing System, the integrated system of optoelectromechanical instrumentation tasked to acquire the wide-field, high-cadence time-domain astronomical data at the heart of the Zwicky Transient Facility. The ZTFC consists of a compact cryostat with large vacuum window protecting a mosaic of 16 large, wafer-scale science CCDs and 4 smaller guide/focus CCDs, a sophisticated vacuum interface board which carries data as electrical signals out of the cryostat, an electromechanical window frame for securing externally inserted optical filter selections, and associated cryo-thermal/vacuum system support elements. The ZTFC provides an instantaneous 47 deg2 field of view, limited by primary mirror vignetting in its Schmidt telescope prime focus configuration. We report here on the design and performance of the ZTF CCD camera cryostat and report results from extensive Joule-Thompson cryocooler tests that may be of broad interest to the instrumentation community.