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SPACE SCOPES
e2v To Supply 16-Megapixel CCD Sensors For VLT In Chile
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (SPX) Sep 05, 2008


Inside the dome of one of the four VLT Unit Telescopes. Credit: ESO

e2v has accepted a new contract from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to provide CCD image sensors for the Very Large Telescope operated in Chile. e2v will supply ESO, the largest astronomical institute in Europe, with a set of CCD231-84 sensors over a two year period.

The image sensors will be used on a new Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE); this is a second-generation instrument being built for the Very Large Telescope, which will be used by European astronomy researchers. The instrument will allow many thousands of spectra to be recorded simultaneously to allow high efficiency studies of dense stellar and extragalactic astrophysical fields.

ESO selected the e2v devices for their high technical performance, including:

+ Area 4k x 4k pixels;

+ High quantum efficiency through the use of backthinned deep depletion silicon with a novel optimised graded thickness coating;

+ Very low readout noise, with 2 e-rms nominal noise level;

+ Precision package design for 'plug and play' installation.

e2v was also chosen because of its well established track record of previously delivering such large sets of CCDs for astronomical applications to ESO and to many other observatories worldwide.

e2v manufactures sensors with formats from 80 X 80 to 8192 X 3972 pixels, for a range of applications. The CCD231 (and complementary CCD230) series of devices offer state-of-the-art performance for scientific imaging applications. In particular the CCD231-84 sensor chosen by ESO is the flagship 4096 X 4096 pixel sensor of this type, with a silicon-carbide buttable package with flex-cables for cryogenic connections.

Variant devices in a standard ceramic/PGA package are also proving popular in this newly-developed device range. The devices are designed using the e2v 'stitching' concept, which facilitates supply of many formats from the same established design (including 2k2k, 4k4k, 8k3k etc).

Roland Bacon, Principal Investigator of the MUSE project, said "MUSE is built to observe very distant galaxies, where the light has taken billions of years to travel and reach our telescopes. Observing galaxies when the Universe was only a few billion years old is a big challenge as, at such distances, galaxies look tiny and are dramatically faint.

The ESO second generation VLT instrument MUSE is built to face this challenge. The high performance of the new e2v large format CCDs are central to the performance of MUSE, enabling each of the few remaining photons received from these young galaxies to be collected at a very high efficiency."

Brian McAllister, General Manager of Space and Scientific Imaging at e2v, said "ESO and e2v have worked together on many projects in the last decade, providing sensors for guidance, adaptive optics and large mosaic cameras. We are delighted to receive this new contract for image sensors from our new CCD231 family, developed to meet the demanding specifications of today's astronomers and scientists."

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