New Astronomical CCDs Created to make Largest 3D Map of the Universe

Guest_Jim_* - September 21, 2012 09:23AM in Science & Technology

Better and more powerful cameras are needed to study the older and more distant Universe. Such studies can help us understand not only the processes involved in shaping the Universe as we see it today, but also on going affects that have yet to be fully explained. This is why researchers at Berkeley Lab have helped the creation of the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) by designing and manufacturing the 62 astronomical CCDs for the camera.

Astronomical CCDs are not as simple as those you will find in off-the-shelf cameras as they have to be of a much higher quality and be far more sensitive. Together these will form a photometric imaging camera which measures the amount of light at different frequencies, instead of details of an astronomical object's spectra. This is accomplished by a clever design that draws on the positive holes left behind when a photon strikes the CCD. Thanks to Berkeley Lab's expertise with astronomical CCDs, those produced for DECam are of extremely high quality, even compared to similar CCDs, as the chips have been fabricated to minimize surface reflections and dark currents not created by an interaction with light.

All together, the 62 CCDs will form the 570 million focal plane of DECam and give it the power to surpass the mapping achievements of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. While producing the CCDs though, the researchers also studied the processes, to improve the runs, which ultimately led to twice as many CCDs being created as needed for DECam.