University of Leicester team develops new imaging system - million times faster than a DSLR camera

Posted by ap507 at Dec 04, 2015 10:55 AM |
Equipment to be used as part of world’s largest gamma ray observatory

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 4 December 2015

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Link to CTA press release

Image credits (see Dropbox for captions):

Cosmic image: ‘Richard White, Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) in Heidelberg’

Group shot: ‘Richard White (MPIK), Duncan Ross (UoL), Jon Lapington (UoL) Image credit Richard White, Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg (MPIK)'

Images 1-7: ‘Akira Okumura, Institute for Space-Earth Environmental Research, Nagoya University'

Scientists from the University of Leicester are involved in the development of new equipment for the world’s largest gamma ray observatory.

They have returned from the inauguration of the Gamma-ray Cherenkov Telescope (GCT) prototype in Paris where 100 project collaborators from around the world had converged. The GCT is proposed to detect very high-energy gamma rays using a camera that has to be about a million times faster than a DSLR camera.

The University of Leicester Space Research Centre has for the past two years been developing the first imaging system (camera) for a Small Scale Telescope (SST) structure of the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). Leicester took a leading role in the development of this prototype camera funded by STFC, who continue to support the project.

The camera, the red coloured "cube", is mounted on the GATE telescope structure developed by the Observatoire de Paris in Meudon (South-west of Paris) as part of the collaborative project known as GCT (Gamma-ray Cherenkov Telescope).

The University of Leicester has been responsible for the mechanical, thermal, fluidic, environmental, optical and various electronic elements of the camera, with valuable contributions from the Physics departments of Oxford, Liverpool and Durham Universities, as well as several other consortium members from around the world.

Duncan Ross, Head of the Electronics Workshop in the University Space Research Centre, said: “The development has been challenging but highly rewarding and the team at Leicester is very proud to have been so heavily involved in the development of the first camera to take an image, amongst several other cameras being developed to perform the same task by other academic institutes around the world.

“The inauguration event in Meudon on December 1st was attended by around 100 project collaborators from all over the world, representing the CTA project as a whole. We very much enjoyed celebrating the hard work and achievement of Leicester, our UK, European and worldwide colleagues, and the amazing team at Meudon. The celebration is especially meaningful to us due to the terrible events that unfolded in Paris on November 13th.”

The GCT is being proposed as one of CTA’s small size telescopes (SSTs) to cover the high end of the CTA energy range, between about 5 and 300 TeV (tera-electronvolts). Around 70 SSTs are needed to make sure CTA is sufficiently sensitive at these enormous energies. The GCT is one of three different SST implementations being prototyped and tested around the world. Current expectations are that the array will include approximately 35 GCTs.

The telescope is one of the very first to use the Schwarzschild-Couder dual-mirror optical design. It has recently been recognized that this is well-suited to ground-based gamma-ray astronomy, providing good image quality over a large field of view and allowing the construction of telescopes and cameras that are more compact than the single-mirror systems that are currently in use.

In order to detect the short flashes of light produced by gamma rays as they hit the earth’s atmosphere, the telescope's camera has to be about a million times faster than a DSLR camera. To do this, it uses high-speed digitisation and triggering technology capable of recording images at a rate of one billion frames per second and sensitive enough to resolve single photons. The GCT's camera was installed and began integration testing this week.

The GCTs will be built by an international collaboration with contributions from institutes and universities in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Partners in the GCT consortium include: Aix-Marseille Université (France), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), Durham University (UK), Max-Planck Institut für Kernphysik, Heidelberg (Germany), Nagoya University (Japan), Observatoire de Paris (France), Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany), University of Adelaide (Australia), University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), University of Leicester (UK), University of Liverpool (UK) and Oxford University (UK).


Notes to editors

About CTA

CTA is a global initiative to build the world’s largest and most sensitive high-energy gamma-ray observatory. Over 1,000 scientists and engineers from 32 countries* and over 170 research institutes participate in the CTA project. CTA will serve as an open observatory to a wide physics and astrophysics community and provide a deep insight into the non-thermal, turbulent, high-energy universe. The CTA observatory will detect high-energy radiation with unprecedented accuracy and approximately 10 times the sensitivity of current instruments, providing novel insights into some of the most extreme and violent events in the universe.

Read more about CTA's expected performance: <>.

*Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America, Ukraine


Dr Jon Lapington

Reader in Space Physics

Space Research Centre

University of Leicester


Duncan Ross

Head of Electronics Workshop

Space Research Centre

University of Leicester

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