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PIXIS 1024BR CCD cameras from Princeton Instruments, (Trenton, N.J.), were critical elements in astronomy research conducted during the recent solar eclipse. Headed by Dr. Shadia Habbal of the University of Hawaii, a team of researchers from various universities traveled to the Gobi desert in Mongolia to capture the eclipse.
The solar eclipse is a rare event that occurs when the bright disk of the sun is obscured by the moon for a few minutes. This latest eclipse occurred on Aug. 1, 2008, and was seen over a wide swath, including northern Canada, Greenland, Central Russia, eastern Kazakhstan, western Mongolia and China. The 1.039 magnitude total eclipse lasted for about 2 hours in some regions; however, it lasted only 2 minutes and 10 seconds in the Mongolia area.
Researchers chose two Princeton Instruments PIXIS 1024BR cameras as the workhorses for the image capture in the red to far red region of the spectrum. These cameras with 1Kx1K deep depletion, back illuminated CCDs, low readout noise and deep cooling provided excellent imagery over a wide wavelength range—from 6374oA (Fe X) through 10747oA (Fe XIII). The deep depletion CCDs minimize etaloning (an effect caused by light waves passing through the CCD and reflected at the rear surface). The team studied the sun's outer corona, which appears only during the eclipse.
The short duration of the eclipse made it even more critical for all instrumentation to perform flawlessly. The PIXIS 1024BR cameras had been used during two previous solar eclipse missions.