Vol 21, No 10

Research on performances of back-illuminated scientific CMOS for astronomical observations

Peng Qiu, Yong Zhao, Jie Zheng, Jian-Feng Wang, Xiao-Jun Jiang


Abstract To evaluate performances of a back-illuminated scientific CMOS (sCMOS) camera for astronomical observations, comparison tests between Andor Marana sCMOS and Andor iKon-L 936 CCD cameras were conducted in a laboratory and on a telescope. The laboratory tests showed that the readout noise of the sCMOS camera is about half lower, the dark current is about 17 times higher, the dynamic range is lower in the 12-bit setting and higher in the 16-bit setting, and the linearity and bias stability are comparable relative to those of the CCD camera. In field tests, we observed the open cluster M67 with the sCMOS and CCD cameras on a 60 cm telescope. Unlike the CCD camera, the sCMOS camera has a dual-amplifier architecture. Since a 16-bit image of the sCMOS camera is composed of two 12-bit images sampled with 12-bit high gain and low gain amplifiers simultaneously, it is not real 16-bit output data. The evaluation tests indicated that the dual-amplifier architecture of the sCMOS camera leads to a decline of photometric stability by about six times around specific pixel counts. For photometry of bright objects with similar magnitudes that require high frame rates, the sCMOS camera under 12-bit setting is a good choice. Therefore, the sCMOS camera is fitted with survey observations of variable objects requiring short exposure times, mostly less than 1 s, and high frame rates. It also satisfies the requirements for an offset guiding instrument owing to its high sensitivity, high temporal resolution and high stability.


Keywords detectors — photometric — observational

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