e2v to supply 16-Mpixel CCD sensors for Very Large Telescope

SEPTEMBER 5, 2008--e2v will supply ESO, the largest astronomy institute in Europe, with a set of CCD231-84 sensors over a two-year period.

SEPTEMBER 5, 2008--e2v technologies plc (Chelmsford, Essex, UK; www.e2v.com), a designer, developer, and manufacturer of specialized components and subsystems, 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 astronomy institute in Europe, with a set of CCD231-84 sensors over a two-year period. The CCD 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 thousands of spectra to be recorded simultaneously to enable high-efficiency studies of dense stellar and extragalactic astrophysical fields.

ESO has selected the e2v devices based on the following characteristics:

  • Area 4k x 4k pixels
  • High quantum efficiency through the use of backthinned deep depletion silicon with an optimized graded thickness coating
  • Very low readout noise, with 2 e-rms nominal noise level
  • Precision package design for plug-and-play installation

According to e2v, its devices were also chosen because of the company's record of previously delivering such large sets of CCDs for astronomy 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 are often used 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 seeing demand 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, says, "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 is 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."

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