ASTRONOMY / PHYSICS
CATALOG 2007
M31 by Adam Block and Tim
Puckett, using Alta U9000 and
Televue 127is telescope.
1020 Sundown Way, Ste 150
Roseville CA 95661 USA
tel 916-218-7450
fax 916-218-7451
http://www.ccd.com
©2007 Apogee Instruments Inc.
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THE EVOLUTION OF ALTA
AND ASCENT
Since 1993, Apogee Instruments has
been supplying cooled CCD cameras to
astronomers around the world. Our cameras
are now used in more than 50 countries,
from world-class professional observatories
to backyard domes where “amateurs” add
discovery after discovery every day. Over
the years, we have kept track of every
suggested improvement that we could add
to the cameras to bring our technology to
the next level. We have packed Alta and
Ascent with as much of your wish lists as
possible. With Alta, we aimed at the highest
performance; with Ascent, we aimed at
higher speeds and more accessible pricing.
DIVERSITY ADDS
STRENGTH
Alta cameras integrate the best of the best in
imaging components: from back-illuminated
CCDs to front-illuminated CCDs to interline
transfer CCDs. We know their strengths and
weaknesses from first-hand experience. We
can guide you to the best trade-offs between
price and performance--or we can show you
the best of the best if you’re done with compromise...
Image courtesy Dr. David Rapaport, UCSD.
Ascent
Apogee Instruments Inc.
S
pecification sheets and mechanical
drawings for all Apogee cameras can
be found at our website, www.ccd.com, or
on our Integration Starter Kit CD. Please
contact us to receive your free copy.
ALTA U16M
ASCENT A16000
The U16M is partly new product and partly
dramatic change in Kodak’s pricing of an
old standby for huge field-of-view. Kodak
has added anti-blooming and microlenses,
maintaining most of the quantum efficiency
of the old U16.
Kodak KAI-16000
4872 x 3248
7.4 micron pixels
36 X 24 mm
867 mm2
Full Well: 40K
U16M
Kodak KAF-16803
4096 x 4096
9 micron pixels
36.9 x 36.9 mm
1359 mm2
Full Well: 85K
VdB14 by Tim Puckett / Adam Block, using
Alta U9 camera and Takahashi 180 scope.
WE HONOR OUR ROOTS
Astronomy is the foundation of our business.
You’ll see us in Sky&Telescope, in Physics
Today, and at American Astronomical Society
meetings. And you’ll see new astronomy
products added all the time: see page 2.
Our cameras have been used for high-end
astronomical applications like capturing the
first images of optical counterparts of gamma
ray bursts, plus thousands of discoveries of
comets, near-Earth asteroids, and extra-solar
planets. But they have also been used for the
detection of fingerprints; x-ray inspection of
car parts; fluorescent imaging of cell tissues;
munitions testing, laser beam profiling,
Raman spectroscopy; poacher surveillance,
mammography; optics testing, and searching
for a lower-cost means to detect anthrax.
By expanding into other markets with
other demands, Apogee has had to confront
many technological hurdles that were not
previously considered to be “astronomical”
problems. For example, life science markets
want SPEED....but as it turns out, our
astronomical customers were quite frustrated
with long readout times. Improvements
created for life science turned out to be best
sellers in astronomy. Less time waiting for
readout means more images per precious
cloudless night.
©2007 Apogee Instruments Inc. Alta is a registered
trademark of Apogee Instruments Inc.
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FEATURED PRODUCTS
COOLED CCD CAMERAS
There are many technological jumps designed into the Altas. But other aspects of
the technology represent refinement upon
refinement over more than a decade. Our
cooling technology, for example, is far ahead
of the competition, not just because of what it
is, but because of what it isn’t. We’ve made
mistakes--and survived to apply the lessons
learned to improving the product and the
company as a whole. We continue to refine
not just our electronics and our mechanical
designs, but also our procedures, our documentation, our customer recordkeeping. It’s
quite an accomplishment to manufacture and
sell thousands and thousands of cameras, but
unless they are robust, the result is a customer
service tsunami.
In our effort to improve our process, we’ve
achieved the following benchmarks:
· FCC compliance
· CE compliance
· ROHS compliance
· ISO-9000 compliance (in process)
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1020 Sundown Way, Ste 150
Roseville CA 95661 USA
tel 916-218-7450
fax 916-218-7451
http://www.ccd.com
HIGH PERFORMANCE
A DECADE OF
IMPROVEMENTS
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HIGHEST QUANTUM
EFFICIENCY BACKILLUMINATED CCDs
ALTA U42
2048 x 2048
U42
E2V CCD42-40
2048 x 2048
13.5 micron pixels
27.6 x 27.6 mm
764 mm2
Full Well: 100K
ALTA U47
U9000
Kodak KAF-09000
3056 x 3056
12 micron pixels
36.7 x 36.7 mm
1346 mm2
Full Well: 110K
Kodak’s newest large format interline transfer
CCD shares the 35mm film format with the
KAI-11002. Smaller pixels are an ideal
match for large fields of view on shorter focal
length telescopes.
ALTA U9000
For those with medium focal lengths, the new
12 micron format is a great fit for large field
of view. The U9000 also sports twice the
full well capacity of the interline 11000, higher quantum efficiency, and much lower dark
current. The 300X anti-blooming is ideal for
astrophotography.
1024 x 1024
E2V CCD47-10
1024 x 1024
13 micron pixels
13.3 x 13.3 mm
177 mm2
Full Well: 100K
Back-illuminated CCDs have long been the
ideal research instruments of the astronomy
community. Their exceptional sensitivity
and low readout noise make them ideal for
minimizing exposure time and maximizing
signal-to-noise in low light applications like
astronomy.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
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Ascent A16000 Camera
ASCENT A4000
Kodak KAI-4021
2048 X 2048
7.4 micron pixels
15.2 X 15.2 mm
230 mm2
Full Well: 40K
Blue boxes are actual size of imaging CCD
imaging area. For comparison, this is the size
of a Kodak KAF-0402ME:
This Kodak CCD has long been a popular
CCD for life science applications. High
volume there has driven down its costs, and
made it an exceptional value for its resolution. Like its larger cousin the KAI-16000,
the smaller pixels are an ideal match for
shorter focal lengths.
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ALTA versus ASCENT SERIES CAMERAS
Ascent
Apogee Instruments Inc.
There are many factors to consider when
choosing a CCD camera: cost, resolution,
speed, noise, cooling, sensitivity, housing
size. Other features may contribute to a
system’s overall suitability, but most of
these features are shared by the Alta and
Ascent. In general, consider the following
key requirements to determine the optimal
platform:
Alta:
Low readout noise
Maximum cooling
Back-illuminated CCDs
Very large format CCDs
Optional ethernet interface
Ascent:
Low cost
High speed readout
Compact housing
ADVANCED COOLING
To maximize heat dissipation, Alta’s large
inner chamber, back plate, and heatsinks are
machined from a single block of aluminum.
The four fans have four programmable
speeds.
BACK-ILLUMINATED CCDs
Back-illuminated CCDs are much more
expensive than front illuminated CCDs, so
they are chosen when absolutely necessary
for maximum signal-to-noise under low light
conditions. Their higher dark current per
square millimeter requires the higher cooling
of larger Alta housing. (Some very small
spectroscopic format back-illuminated CCDs
are available in the Ascent platform; for
details see our Spectroscopy catalog.)
VERY LARGE FORMAT CCDS
The Alta platform is available in several
housing sizes, accomodating CCDs up to
50mm on a side.
OPTIONAL ETHERNET
An optional ethernet 100baseT interface is
available for the Alta platform.
Left: M16 by Tim Puckett, using Alta U9
camera and 60 cm. telescope.
Feature
Alta
Ascent
LOWER COSTS
Digitization
Fast 12 and slower 16 bit
16 bit, programmable speed
Maximum throughput
Up to 7 Mpixels/sec (Note 1)
Up to 20 Mpixels/sec (Note 1)
Many applications can achieve excellent
results without the ultimate in cooling or low
readout noise. The Ascent is an ideal solution
for many applications where several thousand
dollars may be more important than a few
electrons.
Dual channel interline readout
N/A
Standard
Maximum cooling
55C below ambient (Note 2)
40C below ambient (Note 2)
Programmable gain
N/A
Standard
USB2 interface
Standard
Standard
Ethernet 100baseT interface
Optional
N/A
Electromechanical shutter
Standard, internal (Note 3)
Optional, external (Note 4)
Vane shutter
N/A
Standard, internal (Note 5)
LOW READOUT NOISE
Alta’s readout electronics were designed to
minimize readout noise. The higher speed
software-selectable 12-bit mode is intended
for focussing, and not optimized for low
noise.
The primary differences between the Alta and Ascent Series cameras: Alta is larger, with better cooling, and lower noise
electronics. Ascent is very compact with much lower costs, much faster digitization, and programmable gain. See the chart below
for an overview of the differences. See camera data sheets to get details of a specific model.
HIGHER THROUGHPUT
Ascent was designed to operate at speeds
up to the maximum allowed by USB2.
Digitization speed is programmable so you
can choose your ideal trade-off between
speed and noise. All speeds digitize at a full
16 bits.
COMPACT HOUSING
The Ascent’s smaller, more lightweight
housing fits in many places that the larger
Alta cannot. For smaller scopes where
weight at the end of the tube may be an issue,
the Ascent may be a more suitable platform.
Programmable fan speed
Standard
N/A
Field upgradeable firmware
Standard
Standard
Chamber window
Fused silica
BK7 (optional fused silica)
Peripheral communications
Two serial COM outputs
N/A
General purpose I/O port
Standard
Standard
Programmable LEDs
Standard
Standard
Power input
12V
6V
Internal memory
32 Mbytes
32 Mbytes
Wide variety of CCDs
Yes
Yes
External triggering
Standard
Standard
Image sequences
Standard
Standard
Hardware binning
Up to 8 x height of CCD
Up to 4 x height of CCD
Subarray readout
Standard
Standard
TDI readout (Note 6)
Standard
Standard
Kinetics mode
Standard
Standard
C-mount interface (Note 7)
Standard for D1 housing
Optional, external (Note 7)
Software universality
Standard
Standard
Housing size
6” x 6” x 2.5” (Note 8)
5.7” x 3.8” x 1.3”
Warranty
2 years
2 years
Warranty against condensation
Lifetime
Lifetime
Note 1
Note 2
Note 3
Note 4
Note 5
Note 6
Note 7
Note 8
Maximum speed varies from model to model.
Maximum cooling varies from model to model.
Electromechanical shutters are standard for full frame CCDs, and optional for interline CCDs.
Electromechanical shutters are optional for all models.
Vane shutters are standard for smaller full frame CCDs, optional for interline CCDs.
Interline CCDs cannot do TDI readout.
CCDs >1” video format are too large for C-mount optics (larger than a KAF-3200ME).
Some housings are larger.
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CUSTOMER PROFILES
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GALLERY
EXTRA SOLAR PLANETS
ASTRODON
Tom Kaye is one of very few amateur
astronomers who have detected an extrasolar planet. His instruments: a spectrograph
and an Apogee AP7 camera with a backilluminated CCD. (He is now using an Alta
U47 camera.) His method: detection of faint
shifts in the spectra coming from Tau Boo
using the camera’s extremely high quantum
efficiency, very low readout noise, and
superior cooling.
Detail: Radial velocity measurements
are also commonly known as redshift and
blueshift measurements. When a light source
approaches or recedes, its frequency changes,
in the same way that train horns change
pitch as they approach and move away. If
our eyes were sensitive enough to detect
such extremely small changes, we would
see the train coming at us slightly bluer, and
going away slightly redder. A star’s gravity
is strong enough to keep a planet in orbit, but
the planet is also pulling on the star.This tug
causes the star to move back and forth as the
planet orbits the star. We cannot image the
companion planet directly, but we can detect
its presence via the periodic movement of the
star.
Don Goldman analyzed lunar rocks as a
doctorate student in the “Lunatic Asylum” at
Caltech, but only recently became interested
in astronomy. After leaving Caltech with a
Ph.D., he held research and management
positions in industry and government
labs. He earned an M.B.A. from the U. of
Washington and started his own company,
Optical Solutions, designing, building and
marketing fiber optic spectroscopic analyzers
to Fortune 500 companies requiring real-time
chemical information in their manufacturing
facilities. He has 11 patents, over 30 peerreviewed technical papers and dozens of talks
at technical symposia.
His interests in astronomy started in 2001
with a “trash” scope from a pawn shop. He
noticed differences in color of the same
object posted by respected imagers, and
began to research the RGB filters used for
imaging. He helped to bring an understanding
to the imaging community regarding the
mixture of broadband and narrowband
sources and how they impact color, especially
from doubly ionized oxygen (OIII). This
lead him to develop Astrodon Tru-Balance
filters for better color balance and equal RGB
exposures. He founded his second company,
Astrodon Imaging, for this purpose. He later
added OIII, SII and H-a narrowband filters,
off-axis guiders and camera rotators, all
focused on CCD imaging. He helped to form
the Advanced Imaging Conference (AIC) in
2004 with Steve Mandel, and served on its
board of directors for the first two years. He
has given numerous invited talks on color,
filters, off-axis guiding and how to get into
astrophotography at AIC, Imaging the Sky,
RTMC, AstroImage and his local astronomy
group in Sacramento. He has published
two papers in Sky and Telescope and many
images in astronomy magazines. He had had
several images chosen to be Astronomical
Pictures of the Day (APOD). He participated
in remote observatories at New Mexico
Skies and PROMPT at Cerro Tololo in
Chile. He will soon have a remote facility at
Sierra Remote Observatory at 4500’, east of
Fresno, California, with fellow imager, Paul
Mortfield. At home he owns a Paramount
ME, RCOS 12.5” RC, Takahashi FSQ106N
and E-180, Apogee and SBIG CCD cameras
and, of course, any set of filters he wants.
“In our work on spectroscopy of extrasolar
planets, the light from a single star is
spread out over thousands of pixels. This
normally requires a large telescope with a
correspondingly large price tag. With the
additional quantum efficiency of the Apogee
camera, it was less expensive to increase our
“aperture” with the back illuminated chip
than invest in a new scope. At the time it
was deemed impossible for a 16” (40 cm)
scope to precisely measure extrasolar planet
velocities but our recent publication in the
JBAA outlines how it was done relying on
the Apogee camera.”
--Tom Kaye
Periodicity of Tau Boo as measured by
an Apogee AP7 camera and Tom Kaye’s
spectrograph.
Apogee AP7 as mounted on Tom Kaye’s
spectrograph.
©2007 Apogee Instruments Inc. Alta is a registered
trademark of Apogee Instruments Inc.
Top left & bottom right:
IC2177 “Seagull Nebula” and NGC
2244 “Rosette Nebula”, by Don
Goldman using U16M camera &
Takahashi FSQ106N scope.
Others, clockwise from top right:
N44 “Superbubble”, NGC 3132
“Southern Ring Nebula”, and NGC
2442, by SSRO-S / PROMPT, using
Alta U47 camera, RC Optical 16”
f/11.3 truss. (Taken at Cerro Tololo,
Chile).
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ALTA & ASCENT: SHARED FEATURES
INTERNAL MEMORY
32 Mbytes of SDRAM image memory is
included in the Alta U Series and Ascent
camera heads. 24 Mbytes of image memory
is included in the Alta E Series camera
head. Local memory serves some important
functions:
First, with any network connection and
even USB2.0 connection, consistency in
download rates cannot be guaranteed. Some
manufacturers go to great lengths to attempt
to lock Windows® up during downloads to
ensure that no pattern noise results from
breaks in the digitization process, but such
a lockup is not possible with network
interfaces. The Alta and Ascent systems
buffer the image transfer to protect from
noise-producing interruptions.
Second, on heavily loaded USB2
ports, slower USB1.1 applications, loaded
networks, or slower TCP/IP transfers, the
maximum digitization rate could be limited
without a local buffer. Local image memory
allows very fast digitization of image
sequences up to the limit of the internal
camera. The maximum digitization-tomemory rates for 100baseT systems is 1.4
megapixels per second, while the maximum
digitization-to-memory rates for USB
systems is 11 megapixels per second for the
Alta and 20 megapixels/sec for the Ascent.
There is a fundamental difference in
the way the Alta USB2 and network image
buffers function. The USB2 image buffer
is capable of transferring data to the host
while digitization of the CCD is active. As
long as the USB2 transfer speed is greater
than the digitization rate, the memory buffer
will never fill. The network memory buffer
requires the image digitization to complete
prior to transfer across the network.
HARDWARE BINNING
Every Alta and Ascent camera supports
hardware binning. Horizontal binning is
up to 8 in the Alta and up to 4 in the Ascent.
Vertical binning is up to the height of the
CCD for both systems. Binning can be used
to increase frame rate, dynamic range, or
apparent sensitivity by collecting more light
into a superpixel. See additional detail under
CCD University on our website.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
www.ccd.com
PROGRAMMABLE LEDs
Two LEDs on the side of the cameras can
be programmed to show status of a variety
of the camera functions, such as the camera
has reached the set temperature, the shutter
is open, or the camera is waiting for an
external trigger. Alternatively, the LEDs
can be turned off if you are concerned about
stray light. The E Series cameras also have
two green LEDs that indicate status of the
network connection.
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DRIFT SCANNING
KINETICS MODE
IMAGE SEQUENCES
The Alta and Ascent camera systems accept
external hardware trigger signals through
their camera I/O ports for a number of
purposes. Software and hardware triggers
can be used together. For example, a software
or hardware trigger may be used to initiate a
single exposure or a sequence of exposures
of a specific duration and specific delay
between exposures. Alternatively, a software
trigger may be used to start a sequence, and
the external trigger can be used to trigger
each subsequent image in the sequence.
In addition, the external trigger can be
used to trigger row shifts for time-delayed
integration, or can be used to trigger block
shifts for kinetic imaging.
More formally known in astronomy as
time-delay integration (TDI), this technique
is a powerful tool for applications such
as photometry, as well as searching for
asteroids, comets, novae and supernovae.
The primary method is to keep the
telescope stationary and to let the sky drift
down the chip. The CCD is precisely aligned
with the sky, so that as the sky drifts, the
image on the CCD is precisely clocked to
continue building the image. When the
image reaches the last row, it is read to the
host computer and added to a continuous strip
of sky.
The movement of the stars equals the
cosine of the declination x 15°/hour. The
wider the field, and the further north that
the user scans from the celestial equator, the
more the star-trails curve in the field.
The TDI capability utilizes a 25 MHz
time base (Ascents use a 48 MHz time base)
and local memory to achieve consistent
high resolution performance. TDI mode
allows the user to adjust the row shift rate.
Timing may be adjusted in 5.12 microsecond
increments to a maximum of 336
milliseconds per row shift. The minimum
TDI shift time is the digitization time for
one row. TDI cannot be done with cameras
using interline CCDs, such as the U2000 and
U4000.
Kinetics Mode assumes that the user has
optically masked off all but the top most
section of the CCD. This exposed section is
illuminated, shifted by x rows, then exposed
again until the user has exposed the entire
surface of the CCD with y image slices.
Image sequences of up to 65535 images
can be acquired and transferred to camera /
computer memory automatically. A delay
may be programmed between images from
327 microseconds to 21.43 seconds. (This
does not mean you can acquire images every
327 microseconds; it means you can program
a delay of 327 microseconds between the
end of a readout and the start of the next
exposure.)
MaxIm DL/CCD software is standard with
every Alta, as well as an ActiveX driver that
is universal to all Apogee Alta and Ascent
cameras, as well as legacy AP and KX
cameras. If you write custom code for an
Apogee camera, you won’t have to change
it later if you change models. Our cameras
are also supported by other programs like
CCDSoft. Linux and Mac OS X drivers are
also available.
The sensors for Alta and Ascent cameras
are sealed into an inner chamber filled with
argon. The chamber has a lifetime guarantee
against condensation.
PROGRESSIVE SCAN
(CONTINUOUS IMAGING)
Interline transfer CCDs first shift charge
from the photodiode in each pixel to the
masked storage diode, and then march the
charge through the storage diodes to the serial
register. Acquisition of a new image in the
photodiodes during readout of the previous
image is called “progressive scan.” Alta and
Ascent cameras both support progressive
scan with interline CCDs.
SUBARRAY READOUT
POWER DRIFT SCANNING
A variation of the drift scanning method
described above uses timed shifts in combination with synchronized movement of the
telescope mount. Rather than wait for the
Earth to rotate, the scope moves in the direction of the rotation and the row shift times
are accelerated. Adjusting the drive rate faster
allows for more sky coverage but at a loss of
limiting magnitude.
Alta and Ascent cameras support readout of
an arbitrary sub-section of the array in order
to speed up frame rate. (Please note that
reading half the array, for example, does not
increase the frame rate by two because of
overhead required in discarding unwanted
pixels.
The Alta and Ascent platforms allow for
three types of image sequencing:
The image in the exposed area is shifted to
the masked area per software command, preset shift frequency, or external trigger. The
number of rows per section is predetermined
and constant.
When the number of desired exposures has
been reached, or the CCD has been filled
(whichever comes first), the entire array is
read out and digitized. If you want to use the
entire CCD including the exposed area, then
the light source needs to be shuttered after
the final exposure (externally, electronically,
or electromechanically). or using an
electromechanical shutter).
Application-Driven Sequencing:
This is the most common form of image
sequencing. The application merely takes a
specified number of successive images. This
type of sequencing is suitable when the time
between image acquisitions is not short and
where slight differences in timing from image
to image are not important.
Precision back to back sequencing
Altas and Ascents incorporate a firmware
controlled back to back image sequencing
mode suitable for image-image intervals from
327uS to a maximum of 21.43 seconds in
327uS intervals. This provides for precision
spacing of images in a sequence where
windows applications cannot respond.
Fast back to back sequencing (Ratio
Imaging - Interlines only)
This is a special form of precision back to
back sequencing designed for a fixed <1
microsecond spacing between a pair of
interline CCD exposures. The caveat with
this mode is that the exposure times for
each image must be greater than the readout
time for the image. For example, if using
the Ascent A2000 camera, the readout time
for a full frame is less than 0.2 seconds so
your exposure would need to be at lest 0.2
seconds.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
Below: TDI “stare”: Apogee cameras support Precision TDI and Kinetics Readout Modes.
TWO-YEAR WARRANTY
All Apogee cameras have a standard two-year
warranty and a lifetime guarantee against
condensation in the camera.
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EXTERNAL TRIGGERING
SOFTWARE
The Alta and Ascent systems load all camera
operating code on camera start. These
configuration files can be updated via the web
as we add features and make improvements.
Each camera head has coded information
identifying the type of system, its
configuration, and type of CCD used, as well
as the firmware revision in use. This allows
automatic configuration of the camera in the
field and better customer support from our
offices.
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ALTA & ASCENT: SPECIAL MODES OF OPERATION
SEALED INNER CHAMBERS
UPGRADEABLE FIRMWARE
alta & ascent
VdB142 by Adam Block / SARA
Observatory, using Apogee AP7
camera and 0.9m scope on Kitt Peak.
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CUSTOMER PROFILES
A COMET, 6 NEAR EARTH
OBJECTS, & THOUSANDS
OF ASTEROIDS
Bill Yeung was born in Hong Kong, and
spent decades living in Canada and the US
before recently returning to Hong Kong. He
still does remote observing with two setups
in New Mexico, one of which continues to
use an Apogee Alta U16. More recently his
interests have moved from asteroid hunting to
exoplanet transits and photometry.
When he was a young boy, his father
bought him a low cost Japanese refractor.
When he saw Saturn’s rings for the first time,
he was hooked. A primary school nature
class talked about 1,600 discovered asteroids
in the solar system. He decided it would be
nice to discover one.
Then around 1996, Dennis Di Cicco wrote
an article in CCD Astronomy about how to
discover new asteroids with an 8” telescope
in one’s backyard. That article was the final
push to get him started. Before 2000, he had
discovered his first asteroid.
Bill has since discovered one comet,
P/2002 BV (Yeung), now catalogued as 172P/
Yeung, six near-Earth objects, and about 2000
asteroids, more than 1000 of which have been
numbered. One object which has been much
discussed is J002E3, the first object observed
to be captured by Earth’s gravity.
Above: Cederblad 214 & NGC 7822
Taken by Tim Puckett & Adam Block
Camera: Alta U9000 (Televue 127) and Alta
U9 (Takahashi 180)
Total Integration Time: 45 hours
NGC 1365 by SSRO-S/PROMPT, using Alta U47 and
RC Optical 16” f/11.3 truss. (Taken at Cerro Tololo,
Chile)
Left: M45
Taken by Tim Puckett & Adam Block
Telescope: Televue 127is
Camera: Alta U9000
“I find it extremely romantic to be the
first one on Earth to see a new asteroid.
Sometimes when I am driving on a US
highway and see a mile post saying I am two
miles away from an exit, I find it amazing
that an asteroid 2 miles in diameter could be
discovered by me, using an 18” scope from
200 million kilometers away. Of course
all these discoveries would be impossible
without the help of CCD cameras. Apogee’s
large format / high QE cameras have lent a
big helping hand.”
--Bill Yeung
SUPERNOVAE
HAT NETWORK
“In the race to detect faint supernovae,
early detection of objects as faint as
19th magnitude with relatively short
exposures, low noise and fast downloads
is essential. The Apogee Alta E-47 has
made this possible for our supernova search
project. The high quantum efficiency of
the thinned, back-illuminated chip gives
us the sensitivity that we need to make
faint detections. Low noise is achieved
in our hot high-desert environment with
the Alta’s efficient thermoelectric cooling
with which we regularly achieve a 55 deg.
Celcius delta from ambient temperature. The
lightning fast downloads of our Ethernet
capable Alta allows us to image over 500
galaxies per night from a single telescope.
No other camera has given us this level of
performance, stability and reliability. The
Apogee Alta is the only camera that I would
consider for serious science..”
--Ajai Sehgal
HAT (Hungarian Automated Telescope)
is originally a compact observatory that
operated without human intervention.
Development of HAT was initiated by
Bohdan Paczynski in 2001, with the original
goal of monitoring the sky for bright
variables. The search for planetary transits
was begun in 2003. Since then the project
has expanded to a network of telescopes
called HATNet. The network consists of
telescopes installed at two sites: the Fred
Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO)
in Arizona and the Submillimeter Array of
the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
(SAO) atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. This
expansion was very much promoted by the
Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
(CfA), the host institution of the principal
investigator, Gaspar Bakos.
The HAT Network usees Apogee cameras for
their search projects.
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DUAL DIGITIZATION
OPTIONAL ETHERNET
SHUTTERS
COMPACT DESIGN
The Apogee cooling system has long been
one of the most advanced in the industry.
The Alta control system has been expanded
to 12 bits, allowing a temperature control
range of 213K to 313K (-60 to +40 C)
with 0.024 degree resolution. Sensors
have been added to monitor the heat sink
temperature. A power indicator has been
added to give the user an idea of how much
drive is being given to the CCD cooler. The
automatic back-off function is now handled
by the firmware and driver. If the system
cannot reach the desired temperature, the
system automatically backs off to a point
where regulation can be maintained, 2
degrees above the maximum temperature
reached. The new set point is given to the
user. Cooling deltas of 40-60C (depending
on sensor area) are typical with simple air
cooling.
Apogee now offers liquid recirculation
backs for Alta cameras. For customers
desiring greater temperature performance
where the camera housing will not go below
the dew point, specifying liquid recirculation
will assure a lower dark count than is
possible with forced air cooling.
With our fast USB2 systems, we offer dual
digitization: high precision, low noise 16 bit
performance as well as high speed 12 bit for
focussing and other high frame rate needs.
Digitization depth is selectable image by
image in software
The Alta E Series cameras first read the entire
image into the camera head memory, and
then transfer the image to the host computer
at a maximum of 200 kpixels/second. An
Alta U47 camera with 1 megapixel reads
the entire image to the computer in about
1.5 seconds. An E47 reads the image to the
camera memory in 1.5 seconds, but then
requires an additional 5 seconds to transfer
the image to the host computer.
Apogee Instruments uses the finest shutters
available for our cameras from Vincent and
Melles Griot. These shutters have been
carefully integrated into our camera heads
with minimum impact on back focal distance
and camera size. These shutters have a huge
advantage of simple rotating blade shutters
in terms of light blockage and minimum
exposure time.
The Alta systems are designed to be very
compact. At 6”x6” and only 2.2” thick with
no external electronics, the Alta system packs
a lot of power into a small package. The Alta
systems are more than a kilogram lighter than
than their predecessor.
Alta cameras with small format CCDs have a
0.69” (17.5 mm) C-mount back focal distance
for direct interface to microscopes and Cmount lenses. Medium format sensors use
the D2 housing with 2” thread. Large format
sensors use the D7 housing with a 2.5”
thread. Back focal distance for the D2 and
D7 housing is approximately 1.04” (26.4
mm). All cameras have a bolt circle with
metric threads for adaptation to a wide
variety of flanges.
PROGRAMMABLE FANS
Some customers require a complete absence
of vibration during an exposure. The Alta
systems have been designed for complete
control of the cooling fans. The fans may be
turned off, or run at a much slower speed to
maintain adequate cooling with no vibration.
For applications where vibration is not an
issue, the fan speed may be maximized for
greatest cooling. The fans used in the Alta
system were selected for minimum
vibration.
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UNIQUE MAC ADDRESS
Professional grade details like magnesiumflouride coated fused silica windows. Apogee
also offers custom windows, including wedge
windows and customer supplied optics.
SINGLE 12V POWER
SUPPLY
Alta camera systems include a 12V
international power supply (100V-240V
input), but can be operated from a clean 12V
source.
CABLE LENGTH
Ethernet cabling can go to 100m. USB2
cables are limited to 5m between hubs, with
up to 5 hubs, for a total of 30m. However,
there are USB1 and USB2 extenders
available for operation up to 10 km. The
USB1 extenders slow the transfer to a
maximum of 500 kpixels per seoond, but
this rate is still a far higher throughput than
the E Series systems. USB2 extenders are
available using Cat5 cable or fiber optic
cable.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
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ALTA SERIES CAMERAS: 0VERVIEW
ADVANCED COOLING
MGF2 COATED
FUSED SILICA OPTICS
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The Alta E Series cameras each have a unique
MAC address so they can be plugged directly
into the internet for remote operation. We
provide MaxIm software for remote control
of the camera. They cannot be controlled
through your browser.
Because the camera has slave serial, I2C,
and auxiliary filter wheel and guider support,
an entire observatory can be controlled
from behind a single camera interface. For
WAN or WWW connections, a full TCP/IP
protocol gives safe data transfers at slower
speeds. Note that the observatory to control
room cable can be replaced with an available
wireless system, completely eliminating the
need for cables.
A special bi-directional digital interface
with 6 I/O lines can also be used to interface
to other system components. High level
shutter signals, as well as digital strobes and
triggers, are available.
OPTIONAL LIQUID
CIRCULATION
Apogee offers optional Alta liquid
recirculation backplates as well as
temperature-regulated liquid recirculators
for customers wanting to remove heat
dissipation from the area of the telescope;
wanting to house the camera inside an
enclosure; or wanting supplemental cooling.
The limitation: the temperature of the
recirculating liquid must not go below the
dew point.
OPTIONAL LOW PROFILE
HOUSINGS
Lower profile housings are available for all
Alta models to achieve <0.5” (<12.7mm)
back focal distances without internal shutters.
TWO SERIAL COM PORTS & GENERAL I/O PORT
Alta cameras use three shutter types,
depending on the aperture. Apogee shutters
use lower voltage coils then those listed
as standard by the shutter manufacturers,
roughly 1/2 of the standard voltage
requirement. The lower voltages extend the
lifetimes of the shutters.
D1 housing, small format sensors:
Vincent Uniblitz 25mm Shutter
D2 housing, medium format sensors:
Melles Griot 43mm Shutter
D7 housing, large format sensors:
Melles Griot 63.5mm Shutter
Our general purpose I/O port can tell you
when the shutter is open, or can be used for
a wide variety of external trigger inputs,
including line-by-line control of TDI shifts.
Our two serial COM ports can control peripherals like filter wheels through the camera’s
control cable (USB2 or ethernet).
Full frame CCDs typically require an
electromechanical shutter unless the light
source is gated in some other way. Otherwise
light falling on the sensor during the readout
process corrupts the image. Interline
CCDs shift the charge from the photodiode
section of each pixel to the masked storage
diode. For low light applications, the mask
is sufficiently opaque to prevent smearing.
However, in high light applications, interline
CCDs require electromechanical shutters to
prevent smearing during readout.
. Specifications subject to change without notice.
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RAPTOR
The wide field cameras are each set at angles
pointing outward from the central axis. This
allows each to cover a selected field with
a minimal overlap between each one. The
fovea camera is aligned with the axis. Each of
the wide field cameras has a field of view of
19.5 x 19.5 degrees with a single pixel resolution of 34 arcseconds. The overlap between
each camera is 2 degrees. Total coverage
is 1500 square degrees. The fovea camera
field of view is 4 x 4 degrees with a spatial
resolution near 5 times that of the wide field.
RAPTOR A fovea will include a Johnson I
filter and RAPTOR B, a Johnson R filter.
Tom Vestrand is the LANL Principal Investigator for the RAPTOR project.
RAPTOR A and RAPTOR B comprise a
multiple camera mount and a cluster of control computers. Each of these has an array of
four wide field cameras surrounding a narrow
field, fovea camera in the center. RAPTOR
A and B are separated by 20 miles allowing
for binocular vision. This set up allows for
removing of false positives through comparison and parallax.
RAPTOR detects celestial optical
transients automatically and autonomously
follows up on them before they fade away.
The Raptor system consists of a platform
of four rapidly slewing robotic telescopes.
Three of these systems are sited at Fenton
Hill: RAPTOR A, RAPTOR S, and RAPTOR
P. The fourth system, RAPTOR B, is sited at
LANCE at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
(TA-53)
The outer cameras are Apogee AP10 CCDs
mounted on 85mm Canon f/2.8 lenses. The
fovea camera is also an AP10 mounted on
a Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens. All lenses are
manual focus with calipers connected to the
focusing ring in order to have finer control of
the focus.
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A montage of images taken with a U47
camera that revealed exciting new physics
about the prompt optical emission from
gamma ray bursts.
The SARA 0.9m telescope on Kitt Peak.
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GALLERY
SARA (SOUTHEASTERN
ASSOCIATION FOR
RESEARCH IN ASTRONOMY)
SARA was formed in 1989 with members
Florida Institute of Technology, East
Tennessee State University, University of
Georgia, and Valdosta State University. The
objective was to create a mutually beneficial
association of institutions of higher education
in the southeastern United States which have
relatively small departments of astronomy
and physics, and whose faculty members are
all actively engaged in astronomical research.
The consortium now also includes Florida
International University, Clemson University,
Ball State University, Agnes Scott College,
the University of Alabama, and Valparaiso
University.
The SARA consortium was formed in
response to the pending decommission of a
36-inch telescope at the Kitt Peak National
Observatory. SARA was awarded use of the
scope after submitting the winning proposal
to the National Science Foundation.
The telescope was originally constructed
by the Boller and Chivens Corporation, a
Cassegrain design with an effective focal
ratio of f/7.5. The mount and dome are
computer-controlled, allowing for completely
robotic observing without the presence of
human telescope operators. At an altitude
of 6800 feet, this Arizona location offers
very stable seeing conditions and a fairly
low horizon in all directions save for the
northeast.
SARA uses an Apogee AP7p camera as
well as an Alta U42.
On-going research projects include:
· White dwarf stars (Oswalt, FIT)
· Cool variable stars (Henson, ETSU).
· Cataclysmic variables, white dwarf and
delta Scuti variables (Wood, FIT)
· Binary star light curves (Van Hamme
and Samac, FIU; Shaw, UGA)
· Structure of Galaxies (Smith, ETSU)
· Asteroids studies (Leake, VSU).
· Search for and monitoring of gamma ray
bursts (Hartmann, CU)
· Microvariability observations of Blazars
(Webb, FIU)
· Photometric observations of Seyfert
galaxies (Rumstay, VSU)
Since the Summer of 1995, SARA has
also run an internship program, Research
Experiences for Undergraduates (REU),
funded by the National Science Foundation.
Left: IC1805 by Adam Block and Tim Puckett,
using Alta U9000 and Televue 127is telescope.
Below: NGC 2992 by SSRO-S / PROMPT, using
Alta U47 camera and RC Optical 16” f/11.3 truss.
(Taken at Cerro Tololo, Chile).
Above: NGC 2024 “Flame Nebula” by Peter
Armstrong, using Alta E42 2048 x2048 backilluminated CCD camera and 24” f/5.5 telescope.
Right: Big Bear Solar Observatory, using Apogee
KX4 camera.
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Unlike previous generations of Apogee
cameras with fixed digitization rates for
each bit depth, the Ascent cameras feature
programmable readout rates using 16-bit
digitization. You can choose the best tradeoff between noise and readout speed imageby-image. Some CCDs, like the interline
transfers, can read two channels at up to 10
MHz each, for a total throughput of over 20
megapixels per second. Other CCDs, like the
full frame Kodaks, typically have a maximum
useful throughput rate of about 7 to 10 MHz.
See individual data sheets for specifics
regarding each camera system.
PROGRAMMABLE GAIN
AND OFFSET
All Ascent models feature programmable
gain and bias offset programmable in the
analog-to-digital converter.
GUIDER INTERFACE
Ascent cameras include a guider interface
to popular telescope mounts. The interface
plugs into the 8 pin mini-DIN on the
camera and provides a standard RJ11 plug
to the telescope. A relay interface is used
where each mount channel (RA and DEC)
is mechanically switched to an isolated
common signal.
EMCCD SUPPORT
EMCCDs are unique among CCDs. It has
a special charge multiplication circuit that
intensifies charge on-ccd before readout.
Gains of 1 to 2000 are possible on-CCD
using this technology, resulting in detection
of extremely low light levels. With a gain of
1, the CCD behaves much like a normal CCD
with a maximum well depth of 28Ke- and
a typical noise of 20e-. With higher gains,
CCD output noise approaches 1e- with a
severe reduction in usable well depth. The
A247 uses an interline frame transfer CCD,
eliminating the need for a mechanical shutter
and reducing smear.
OPTIONAL LIQUID
CIRCULATION
Apogee offers optional Ascent liquid
recirculation back as well as temperatureregulated liquid recirculators for customers
wanting to remove heat dissipation from
the area of the telescope; wanting to house
the camera inside an enclosure; or wanting
supplemental cooling. The limitation: the
temperature of the recirculating liquid must
not go below the dew point.
ASCENT FILTER WHEEL
The Ascent systems are extremely
lightweight (0.6 kg) and compact. At 5.7”
x 3.2” (14.5 x 8.1 cm) and only 1.2” (3 cm)
thick with no external electronics, the Ascent
is a marvel of compact electronics. The
standard back focal distance for all models is
about 0.32” (0.8 cm).
ALTA FILTER WHEEL
Apogee offers an optional filter wheel for
nine 2” round filters or seven 2” square
filters. The filter wheel can be controlled directly from one of the Alta’s COM ports. The
filter wheel is pictured here on the optional
D9 housing (see below)
LIQUID CIRCULATION /
CHILLER UNIT
Alta with optional liquid circulation adapter
and optional liquid circulation / chiller unit
OPTEC FILTER WHEELS
AND FILTERS
The Optec Intelligent Filter Wheel system
allows use of multiple wheels, each with a
custom identifier.
FACE PLATE ADAPTERS
OPTEC TCF-S FOCUSERS
Flange adapters allow you to attach anything
from an SLR camera lens to a large
instrument pack to your Apogee camera. We
have sizes to fit all Alta and Ascent cameras.
These units are machined precisely for
accurate concentricity.
Optec focusers compensate for focal shift due
to temperature. They supports instruments
up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Easy to use hand
control.
OVERSIZE HOUSING WITH
ADDED COOLING
Ascent with optional liquid circulation
adapter and optional external filter wheel.
An optional, deeper version of the D7
housing, called the D9, is available with
liquid circulation cooling only, and provides
cooling to 60°C below ambient for our U16,
U16M, and U9000 cameras.
The standard chamber window for the Ascent
system is low cost BK7. An optional fused
silica window is also available for applications requiring higher throughput in the
ultraviolet.
ASTRODON® FILTERS
LENS & SLIP-FIT
ADAPTERS
USB2 EXTENDERS
VANE SHUTTERS
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Our on-site experts can help you choose a
camera and all support accessories.
COMPACT DESIGN
ANTI-REFLECTIVE COATED
BK7 OPTICS
Ascent cameras with full frame CCDs
have internal shutters intended to prevent
smearing during readout for low light
applications. The same professional-grade
electromechanical shutters available as
standard and internal in the Alta cameras are
also available as housed external options with
the Ascent cameras.
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ACCESSORIES
ASCENT SERIES CAMERAS: 0VERVIEW
PROGRAMMABLE
DIGITIZATION
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SINGLE 6V POWER SUPPLY
Ascent camera systems include a 6V
international power supply (100V-240V
input), but can be operated from a clean 6V
source.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
Ascent with optional liquid circulation, filter
wheel, and slip fit adapter
The new Icron USB 2.0 Ranger® extenders
support USB cameras at distances from 50
meters (Cat 5 cable) to 10 km (fiber cable).
Astrodon® Tru-Balance filters are the first
filters designed to match the sensitivity of
modern CCD cameras, simplifying all aspects
of tri-color imaging of deep-sky objects.
We carry adapters for: Takahashi, Televue,
RC Optical systems, ASA, OGS, DFM,
Cannon, Nikon, AstroOptik, Meade,
Celestron and Orion
Specifications subject to change without notice.
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GALLERY
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CUSTOMER PROFILES
SUPERNOVAE
Tim Puckett has a degree in photography
and began in astronomy with photographing
comets 30 years ago. He has been a pioneer
in the field of amateur digital astro-imaging,
owning and operating numerous CCD
cameras since 1988. Tim has also become an
accomplished machinist and mount maker,
and has built many robotic telescopes. He is
currently operating a supernova search patrol.
To date, Tim’s team has discovered 161
supernovae.
Puckett uses custom software to keep
track of all the telescopes in the network to
avoid overlap and to optimize output. To
date Puckett has taken more than one million
images in the search. Observing from dusk
until dawn on every clear night, Puckett
images approximately 1200 to 4000 galaxies
per night. In addition, Puckett uses computers
to control the robotic telescopes and sends
the images to other volunteers via the
Internet. Each image is manually compared
(“blinked”) to archive images. Puckett
spends approximately 40-50 hours each week
running the search. All the team members
have contributed thousands of hours each.
Professional astronomers further study
these supernovae (exploding stars) to better
understand the life cycle of stars and the
acceleration of the universe.
Tim is currently manager of Astronomy
Sales at Apogee Instruments Inc.
NEAR EARTH OBJECTS
Tim with Brian Marsden at the Puckett
Observatory.
Tim’s photos of comets and deep-sky
objects have been published in books and
magazines in 25 countries. His work has also
been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX,
CNN, BBC, The Discovery and Learning
Channels and Good Morning America.
Tim with Gene Shoemaker at Tim’s
workshop in Georgia.
Top: N7000, Tim Puckett and Adam Block using an Alta U9 and Takahashi 180 scope.
Below: Tim’s first 160 supernovae discoveries.
Not many “amateurs” take on this level of
“home made” telescope.
David routinely images to magnitude
21 with his Apogee cameras and 0.4 meter
telescope.
JORNADA OBSERVATORY
David Dixon pushes his telescope right to
the limits imaging NEO’s. In early 2000 an
increased awareness of the role of impact
events on the history of the earth, and the
need for observations of NEOs at magnitudes
greater than 20V led to a change in focus to
NEO observation. Jornada observatory is
beginning an astrometry program focused on
recovery and follow up of NEOs. Priority is
the recovery of multiple and single opposition NEOs which will exceed magnitude 21.0
but don’t exceed magnitude 19.0 during the
opposition, and follow-up of newly discovered NEOs that are in the 19V to 21V brightness range and getting dimmer.
The NEOs that are expected to become
brighter than magnitude 19.0 during the opposition will be considered second priority
targets since there is a reasonable expectancy
of recovery by the professional surveys during their normal search work.
The high QE and the low noise of the Apogee backlit cameras help David get an edge.
Jornada Observatory is supported with
instrumentation provided by The Planetary
Society Shoemaker NEO Grant Program of
2000.
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CCD SELECTION
BACK ILLUMINATED
For nearly 30 years, back-illuminated CCDs have represented the ultimate in high performance astronomical imaging. The highest
sensitivity available means shorter exposures and better signal-to-noise. (Monochrome only)
C
U9000
KAF-09000
3058
3058
9351364
12
36.7
36.7
1346.6
51.9
M
A8300
KAF-8300CE
3448
2574
8875152
5.4
18.6
13.9
259
23.2
M,C
U9, A9
KAF-6303E
3072
2048
6291456
9
27.6
18.4
509.6
33.2
M
U10
TH7899*
2048
2048
4194304
14
28.7
28.7
822.1
40.6
M
U32, A32
KAF-3200
2184
1472
3214848
6.8
14.9
10.0
148.7
17.9
M
KAF-1603ME
1536
1024
1572864
9
13.8
9.2
127.4
16.6
M
U13
KAF-1301E
1280
1024
1310720
16
20.5
16.4
335.5
26.2
M
U6
KAF-1001E
1024
1024
1048576
24
24.6
24.6
604.0
34.8
M
KAF-0402ME
768
512
393216
9
6.9
4.6
31.9
8.3
M
KAF-0261E
512
512
262144
20
10.2
10.2
104.9
14.5
M
10
U10
E10
0
U9
E9
A9
A105
90
10
6.6
5.0
32.6
8.24
M,C
EMCCDs
EM
CCDs
EM247
TI TC247
658
CAMERA DATA SHEETS
496
326368
A complete set of camera data sheets as well as
mechanical drawings are on our Integration Starter Kit
CD, or at www.ccd.com
EMCCD
EM247
U2000
E2000
A2000
10
0
A340
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1000
M,C
20
960
5.99
30
920
17.2
40
880
3.6
U4000
E4000
A4000
50
840
4.8
A16000
A11000
60
800
7.4
INTERLINES
70
720
313632
U1
E1
A1
680
484
U260
E260
A260
640
648
Total
Pixel Size Array size (mm) Imaging Area Diagonal Mono=M
Pixels
(microns)
X
Y
(mm2)
(mm)
Color=C
15824256
7.4
36
24
866.5
43.3
M,C
10709376
9
36
24
867.5
43.3
M,C
4194304
7.4
15.2
15.2
229.7
21.4
M,C
1920000
7.4
11.8
8.9
105.1
14.8
M,C
U2
E2
A2
U32
E32
A32
600
KAI-0340
Broadband
100
A8300
560
A340
Array Size
4872
3248
4008
2672
2048
2048
1600
1200
Wavelength
UV Enhanced
OE
80
INTERLINE TRANSFER CCDs
Kodak CCD
KAI-16000
KAI-11002
KAI-4021
KAI-2021
Midband BI
FRONT-ILLUMINATED CCDs
*The U10 uses an E2V (formerly Atmel, formerly Thomson) TH7899 CCD.
Camera
Model*
A16000
A11000
U4000, A4000
U2000, A2000
20
520
U260, A260
30
U13
E13
Wavelength (nm)
Back-illuminated
Kodak Blue Plus
Microlensed
KAI-11002
10
00
32
96
0
475
92
0
17.8
88
0
26.6
84
0
6.8
80
0
10275584
76
0
2624
40
72
0
3916
50
68
0
KAF-10500CE
60
64
0
A105
U6
E6
60
0
Array Size
4096
4096
4096
4096
70
U16
U16M
U9000
56
0
Kodak CCD*
KAF-16801E
KAF-16803
80
52
0
Camera
Model
U16
U16M
Total
Pixel Size Array size (mm) Imaging Area Diagonal Mono=M
Pixels
(microns)
X
Y
(mm2)
(mm)
Color=C
16777216
9
36.9
36.9
1359.0
52.1
M
16777216
9
36.9
36.9
1359.0
52.1
M
U1, A1
90
FRONT ILLUMINATED
FRONT-ILLUMINATED CCDs
U2, A2
100
Apogee also offers a variety of spectroscopic
format back-illuminateed CCDs.
48
0
27.4
E2V UV-sensitive CCDs
E2V: BACK-ILLUMINATED
& OPEN ELECTRODE CCDs
44
0
177
U77
E77
40
0
6.7
39.1
18.8
17.4
36
0
26.6
764
177
151
U47
E47
32
0
26
Diagonal
(mm)
480
262144
Imaging Area
(mm2)
440
256
Y
27.6
13.3
12.3
400
1024
X
27.6
13.3
12.3
Absolute QE
CCD30-11
Array size (mm)
20
0
Array Size
2048
2048
1024
1024
512
512
Pixel Size
(microns)
13.5
13
24
Absolute QE (%)
U30
E2V CCD
CCD42-40
CCD47-10
CCD77-00
Total
Pixels
4194304
1048576
262144
U30 / E30
U42
E42
The QE curves below give general representations of the relative differences between the
various types of CCDs. For additional detail, please see the data sheets for each camera
model at www.ccd.com. QE of back-illuminated CCDs depends on the coating (midband,
broadband, UV-enhanced). There are also variations in front-illuminated CCDs: all
polysilicon gates; Blue Plus (polysilicon and indium tin oxide gates); microlenses; antiblooming. See individual camera data sheets for details regarding each sensor.
28
0
BACK-ILLUMINATED CCDs
QUANTUM EFFICIENCY
CCD SIZES
24
0
Alta Series cameras with a USB2 interface use a U prefix, for example, U42. Alta Series cameras with an ethernet interface use an E
prefix, for example, E42. All Alta models are available with either interface except the U16, U16M, and U9000 (USB2 only). Ascent
models use an A prefix, except the EM247. In addition to the following CCDs, the Ascent supports a variety of spectroscopic format
back-illuminated CCDs not listed in this chart.
Camera
Model
U42
U47
U77
customers
CCD SELECTION
760
intro
intro
featured products
alta & ascent
ccd selection
case histories
customers
intro
featured products
alta & ascent
ccd selection
case histories
customers
CCD SELECTION
C
CDs come in many shapes and sizes, as
well as several different architectures.
Some architectures were developed
specifically to address the needs of extremely
low light applications like astronomy (backilluminated CCDs). Other technologies
can be adapted to astronomy with excellent
results, but a bit more patience and diligence
may be necessary (interline transfer CCDs).
Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
QUANTUM EFFICIENCY
Higher sensitivity = higher quantum
efficiency = shorter exposures to get the
same results. Shorter exposures = more time
for other exposures and less frustration with
guiding and tracking. The peak value of a
quantum effiiciency curve does not tell the
full story of a CCD’s sensitivity. The area
under the curve gives the true comparison of
a CCD’s relative sensitivity. Twice the area
under the curve = half the time making the
exposure. Or, use the same exposure time,
but get twice the signal. Apogee supports
back-illuminated, front-illuminated, and
interline transfer devices. Back-illuminated
CCDs have the highest overall sensitivity.
However, they are subject to etaloning
(see below) in the near-infrared. Frontilluminated CCDs are much less expensive
than back-illuminated CCDs. Make your
own choices regarding the Biggest Bang for
the Buck.
UV & NIR WAVELENGTHS
Between 200-300 nm: E2V Back-illuminated
UV enhanced CCDs
Between 300-400 nm: most Kodak CCDs
have zero QE at 300 nm, increasing linearly
to >40% at 400 nm.
Near Infrared: Back-illuminated CCDs have
the highest QE, but they are also subject to
etaloning (also known as “fringing”) with
monochromatic NIR. Simply put, the light
bounces around inside the CCD itself. Some
companies have developed proprietary
versions of CCDs that minimize, though
not eliminate, the effect by changing the
thickness of the CCD itself.
www.ccd.com
PIXEL SIZE
COLOR CCDS
INTERLINE TRANSFER CCDs
CCD GRADES
KODAK BLUE PLUS CCDs
Normally larger pixels have higher full well
capacities than smaller ones. Higher full well
capacities increase the potential maximum
signal. If readout noise is kept low, higher
signal means a higher signal-to-noise ratio
(SNR), which is what allows us to see faint
detail and what makes great photographs
great. High SNR pulls those faint, wispy
arms out of a spiral galaxy without making
the center into a burned white blob. High
SNR can also detect very small changes on
top of a deep background, i.e. the stuff that
makes discoveries. Get the largest pixel that
matches your optics.
Color CCDs are convenient for one-shot
color, but they compromise in several ways.
First, the typical red-green-blue (RGB) Bayer
pattern over the pixels of the CCD (see
below) cannot be changed--you cannot do
monochromatic imaging one day, RGB the
next, and cyan-magenta-yellow (CMY) on
the third. Second, color CCDs cannot deliver
the full resolution of the imager. They can,
however, deliver all three color channels at
exactly the same instant in time.
Interline transfer CCDs, up to the scale of
35mm film, have inherent anti-blooming,
but less dynamic range and lower quantum
efficiency than Kodak’s other frontilluminated offerings. Interlines also have
high dark current in the storage diodes, as
well as some leakage through the storage
diode masks. Mass markets for interline
CCDs mean much lower prices per pixel,
and a great entry point into professional level
imaging.
Because interline CCDs shutter the
exposure by shifting the charge from the
photodiode section of the pixel to the storage
diode of the pixel, exposure times can be as
short as a few microseconds. Time between
exposures is determined by the time required
to read out the entire CCD, which varies from
camera to camera.
Interline transfer CCDs cannot do timedelayed integration (also known as “drift
scan” mode) because charge is not transferred
from photodiode to photodiode, but rather
into the masked storage diode.
Each manufacturer’s specification sheet for
an imager defines the cosmetic grades for
that specific imager. Different manufacturers
use different procedures; a grade 1 of Imager
A may allow column defects, but a grade 2
(lower grade) of Imager B may not. Kodak
usually grades their CCDs at about 25°C,
and most of their defects disappear in cooled
cameras when the images are flat-fielded. In
most cases, you cannot see the difference
between the grades. Other companies,
such as E2V, grade their CCDs at low
temperatures, so their defects are less likely
to disappear when the CCD is cooled.
Defects on CCDs do not grow over time,
nor do lower grade CCDs wear out faster.
Most lower grade Kodak CCDs no longer
allow column defects. These lower priced
CCDs are excellent bargains.
You may get an unwanted surprise if you
do not check the data sheets for each CCD
carefully before purchasing a system. Some
large format CCDs allow several column
defects in the “standard grade” CCD,
CCDs create charge due to the photoelectric
effect. In order to create an image rather
than random electricity, the charge must be
held where it was created. “Traditional”
CCDs using from one to four polysilicon
gates carry a voltage that traps the charge
until transferred. Polysilicon has limited
transmissivity. Indium tin oxide (ITO) gates
have higher transmissivity, but lower charge
transfer efficiency. Kodak’s combination
of one polysilicon gate and one ITO gate
is marketed as Blue Plus (because of the
increase in blue sensitivity). The overall
sensitivity of Blue Plus CCDs is much higher
than multi-phase front-illuminated CCDs
using only polysilicon gates. However,
when researching point sources of light, it is
good to keep in mind that there is a marked
increase in quantum effiiency on the ITO side
of each pixel. (See MICROLENSES below).
MATCHING PIXEL SIZE TO
FOCAL LENGTH
The focal length of a telescope is the product
of the aperture and the f/ ratio. A 12” f/10
has a focal length of 120”. Divide that focal
length by 8 to find the approximate size of
1 arcsecond of sky on the CCD, in microns
For example, if your focal length is 120”,
then one arcsecond of sky covers 120/8
= 15 microns on the CCD. You need to
oversample the sky by at least a factor of 2. If
your skies have urban/suburban seeing (3-4
arcseconds), then you need to sample at 1.5
to 2 arcseconds. Again using the 120” focal
length as an example, the “ideal” pixel size
for a 4 arcsecond sky would be 2 arcseconds,
or 30 microns on the CCD. Smaller pixels
would not add resolution to your murky sky,
but they would give up dynamic range and
lower the signal-to-noise ratio. In a clear 2
arcsecond sky, the same scope calls for a
15 micron pixel. Small pixel CCDs can be
binned 2x2 or 3x3 to match changing sky
conditions, but binned small pixels normally
do not match the full well capacity of a
comparable large pixel.
Typical RGB Bayer filter pattern designed to
mimic the responsivity of the human eye.
DARK CURRENT
Quantum efficiency of the Kodak KAI-16000
CCD: black line is monomchrome version;
RGB lines are the color version.
DYNAMIC RANGE
Interline transfer CCDs have, at most, a
full well capacity of about 50K electrons. If
the electronics limits the read noise to 8-10
electrons, this is a dynamic range of 50K/10
= 5000:1, or about 12.3 bits. Most argue for
oversampling by an extra bit, or some argue
even two. However, a 16-bit analog-todigital (AtoD) converter does not upgrade a
12 bit imager into a 16 bit imager. A Kodak
KAF-1001E (Alta U6 camera), using the
low noise (also called “high gain”) output
amplifier, can be operated at 6 electrons
noise with a full well of 200K electrons, or a
dynamic range of more than 30K:1, about 15
bits.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
Thermally generated signal, or dark current,
is not noise. The shot noise component of the
dark current is one element of noise, which
is the square root of the dark current. You
can correct for the dark current itself if you
can measure it, which requires the camera’s
cooling to be programmable and stable. The
deeper the cooling, the less correction you’re
going to have to do.
E2V CCDs: AIMO & NIMO
E2V’s AIMO (Advanced I Metal Oxide, aka
MPP) CCDs have hundreds of times less
dark current than non-IMO (NIMO) CCDs.
Some variations of their CCDs, such as deep
depletion devices with high QE in the near
IR, are only available as NIMO devices.
ANTI-BLOOMING
Anti-blooming (AB) bleeds off excess charge
from individual pixels so that it does not spill
over into its neighbors and cause a white
stripe down the column. For applications like
astrophotography, AB preserves the aesthetics
of the image. For photometric applications,
AB can be used if exposure times are
carefully controlled to avoid excess charge.
The disadvantages of AB: normally it lowers
full well capacity and quantum efficiency.
MICROLENSED CCDs
Many CCDs now use microlenses over
each pixel. In the case of interline transfer
CCDs, the microlenses focus the light onto
the photodiode. In the case of Blue Plus
CCDs (see above), the microlenses focus
the light onto the ITO gate side of the pixel.
Microlenses greatly improve overall quantum
efficiency, but introduce some angular
dependency. Fill factor is normally less than
100%. See data sheets for individual CCDs
for details.
SPECSMANSHIP
CCD manufacturers as well as camera
manufacturers both describe their products
in terms of typical performance, and in some
cases, specify worst acceptable performance.
A CCD data sheet may, for example, say
“typical 15 electrons noise” and “maximum
20 electrons noise” (under very specific
and perhaps irrelevant conditions). As a
result, camera manufacturers using such a
CCD must also use “typical performance”,
or sort CCDs at a potentially large increase
in cost. The difference between typical and
guaranteed is sometimes large, such as a
factor of two in dark current.
Specifications subject to change without notice.
www.ccd.com
THANKS (A PARTIAL LIST OF APOGEE INSTRUMENTS CUSTOMERS)
Apogee Instruments would like to express our gratitude to the thousands of customers from around the world that
have brought so much to our lives since 1994.
Aerospace Corporation • Air Force Research Laboratory • Aloe Ridge Observatory (South Africa) • American Red Cross • Anglo-Australian
Observatory • Ankara University Observatory (Turkey) • Apache Point Observatory • Appalachian State University • Argonne National Laboratory
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Aerospace • Bang & Olufsen (Denmark) • Baton Rouge Observatory • Baylor University • Bechtel • Beijing Observatory (China) • Big Bear Solar
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(Thailand) • Chiba University (Japan) • Chinese University of Hong Kong • Clemson University • Colorado School of Mines • Columbia University
• Complejo Astronómico El Leoncito (Argentina) • Copenhagen University (Denmark) • Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland) • Corning • Crimean
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