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By Lee J. Nelson
To study the evolution of solar flares from the ground with high spatial (1.5 arcsec) and temporal (less than 3 sec) resolution, the H-a Solar Telescope for Argentina (HASTA) was set up at El Observatorio Astronómico Félix Aguilar (La Universidad Nacional de San Juan, High Altitude Station "Carlos U. Cesco," El Leoncito, San Juan, Argentina) and operated jointly by the Max Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (Garching, Germany). Looking at the sun through the southern hemisphere, HASTA acquires disk images in the hydrogen-alpha emission line (6.563 Å). PCO Computer's Sensicam long exposure camera collects incoming signals. The system searches in real-time for rapid fluctuations in overall intensity. When no change is detected, it stores one image each 90 seconds (patrol mode). If a variation is observed, the camera switches into high-speed mode, taking and archiving full-frame images every three seconds. HASTA complements three other solar instruments that are or will be installed shortly at El Leoncito. Scientists anticipate their observations will pinpoint new insights into active Sun phenomena.
Operating under the Scientific and Industrial Imaging segment of Roper Industries, Inc. (Tucson, Ariz.), Princeton Instruments, Inc. (Trenton, N.J.)/Acton Research Corporation (Acton, Mass.) announce expansion of their renowned PhotonMAX line. With a back-illuminated, 1024×1024 frame-transfer electron-multiplying CCD array (EMCCD), PhotonMAX is the first camera to achieve -80°C (-112°F) cooling without water or liquid nitrogen.
"We've optimized every aspect of the PhotonMAX:1024B to achieve unsurpassed sensitivity, speed, reliability and ease of use. The gold standard for low-light level imaging systems has just gotten better," said Imaging Product Manager Ravi Guntupalli. "The camera delivers significant improvement in signal-to-noise ratio, speed and field of view; researchers will be able to design experiments previously considered too difficult or even impossible."
PhotonMAX:1024B's 13.3×13.3 μm field-of-view with ∼95 percent peak quantum efficiency is ideal for large-format, low-light imaging. The camera encompasses leading edge EMCCD architecture: sub-electron read noise with on-chip multiplication gain, high and low speed operation, and low spurious and dark noise. Ultra-deep cooling minimizes dark current, making PhotonMAX:1024B suitable for steady-state imaging where long exposures are the norm as in astronomy, multi-spectral imaging, single-molecule fluorescence and plasma diagnostics. Individually optimized dual readout ports with 16-bit digitization and solid-state amplification eliminate drawbacks typically encountered with image intensification while a 12-bit, 4096-step digital-to-analog converter permits precise control over multiplication gain with an exceptional signal-to-noise ratio. A fiber-channel interface for data transfer is optional.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope. Named after former NASA Administrator James E. Webb, the instrument is scheduled for launch in 2013.