Imaging Solutions by Lumenera Use for Reflective Telescope and Expanding an Interest in Astronomy

The Clay Center Observatory, located in Brookline, Massachusetts, is an innovative educational institution providing practical learning experience for Kindergarten through Grade 12 students who have an interest in astronomy. The high-tech astronomical observatory features a custom-made, diffraction-limited 0.64m f/9.6 Ritchey-Chretien reflecting telescope that has an optical design similar to the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Clay Center’s Requirement

With optically perfect mirrors superior than 1/100th of a wave at 632.8nm, the reflecting telescope needs an advanced imaging solution. The telescope was challenged with capturing pictures of fast moving objects, such as meteors, satellites, rocket launches, and planets, all in dark conditions. Hence, the Clay Center needed a highly sensitive low light camera with fast frame rates of 30-60fps and high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) to capture the images of rapidly moving objects under low light.

The cameras were even carried aboard NASA's High Altitude aircraft for the spectroscopic analysis of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. The imaging system needed to have the adequate sensitivity to identify the changes in the spectrum and determine individual debris during an explosion. This field of study requires higher frame rates, as images would be captured typically at 100ms rather than every second.

Lumenera’s Imaging Solution to the Clay Center

The Clay Center evaluated many different cameras three years ago and concluded that Lumenera's cameras have the greatest sensitivity and the highest SNR of the competition. Lumenera delivered the astronomical observatory with a wide variety of high quality digital cameras with superior sensitivity, resolution and speed to meet the observatory’s challenging imaging needs. The Clay Center deployed the INFINITY2-1R, Lw075, Lw560, SKYnyx2-0, SKYnyx2-1, Lu075, and Lg235.

With Lumenera's Software Development Kit, the Clay Center was able to program and modify imaging software according to their specifications. Moreover, with these cameras, the observatory was able to record uncompressed data onto its hard drive when required. Figure 1 shows the Clay Center using Lumenera cameras.

The Clay Center Using Lumenera Cameras.

Figure 1. The Clay Center Using Lumenera Cameras.

According to Ron Dantowitz, Director of the Clay Center Observatory, the center has roughly 10 Lumenera cameras, which have been crucial for high frame rate, high resolution, unprecedented SNR imaging of astronomical objects. These cameras, especially the Lw075 (SKYnyx2-0) camera is outstanding, considering the operation at f/10 or slower in astronomy.

The center has also performed asteroid photometry incorporating the SKYnyx2-0 for four seconds, and the SNR is incomparable without cooling. The use of the INFINITY2-1R for an asteroid photometry program is an appropriate choice for wider field imaging. The near infrared sensitivity is superior in the absence of an infrared blocking filter.

Conclusion

Since the implementation of Lumenera’s imaging solutions at the Clay Center Observatory, the school has never considered another imaging provider. With high sensitivity and fast frame rates, Lumenera cameras helped the sophisticated telescope to capture high-quality pictures of extraordinary objects.

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