Gigapixel camera to probe dark energy

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e2v has signed a multi-million dollar contract for a two year programme to supply the complete camera system for the Javalambre Physics-of-the-Accelerating-Universe Astrophysical Survey (J-PAS) project. This is a five-year survey of the northern sky to be performed on the Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre’s new wide-field 2.5m telescope.

Funded by a consortium of Spanish and Brazilian astronomy institutes, J-PAS will be dedicated to creating a map of the observable Universe in 56 continuous wavebands from 350nm to 1,000nm. The prime purpose of the instrument is to explore dark energy through measuring galaxy distribution in three dimensions.

Professor Mariano Moles, J-PAS collaboration board chair and director of the Centro de Estudios de Física del Cosmos de Aragón, said: 'J-PAS is a 10,000 square degree survey whose main goal is trying to solve the mystery of dark energy by measuring tiny modulations in the distribution of galaxies. It will obtain low resolution spectral information from every pixel, something akin to observing the whole northern sky through a gigantic prism. This enormously rich dataset, which will include hundreds of millions of galaxies, and millions of stars and quasars, will have enormous value for most areas of astrophysics, from cosmology to solar system studies, including galaxy evolution and stellar physics. This project, one of the most ambitious surveys attempted to date, involves close to 100 scientists from different countries and research centres.'

The e2v cryogenic camera system has a 1.2 Gigapixel mosaic array capable of being read out in 10 seconds, and produces high fidelity images resulting in effectively low-resolution spectra over the whole area of the survey. The exceptional sensitivity, low noise and fast readout rates offered by the J-PAS camera system make it very efficient for this astronomical survey, supplying an immense amount of astrophysical information, not just in cosmology but in all areas of astronomy, from asteroids to clusters of galaxies.

The Gigapixel camera for J-PAS, which will be designed and built by e2v, will use 14 newly developed e2v CCD290-99 high performance imaging sensors. The 85 Megapixel devices will be back-thinned and given a multi-layer, anti-reflection coating for maximum sensitivity. They are a 9k x 9k pixel format, with multiple outputs for rapid readout times, and are mounted in a precision package to allow them to be assembled into a mosaic, providing an image area that is nearly 0.5m in diameter. The focal plane assembly will also include the telescope guide and wavefront sensors. The whole focal plane will then be contained in a custom cryogenic camera, with vacuum and cooling components and integrated electronics which will provide state-of-the-art low noise for maximum sensitivity. e2v is working with RAL Space to provide the electronics.

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