AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Session 64. New Developments in Ground Based Instrumentation
Display, Wednesday, June 5, 2002, 10:00am-7:00pm, SW Exhibit Hall

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[64.04] A Photon-Counting Spectrophotometer for Optical Astronomy

W. T. Vestrand, K. Albright, D. Casperson, E. Fenimore, C. Ho, W. Priedhorsky, R. Shirey, R. White, J. Wren (LANL)

One of the last frontiers in optical astronomy is the sub-second time domain. The construction of 10-m class telescopes opens up new opportunities to explore rapid astrophysical phenomena with timescales that were previously impossible. However, to fully exploit these opportunities we need photon-counting spectrophotometers with very high temporal resolution. We discuss a new type of photon-counting imaging sensor for astronomy that is under development at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This imaging sensor employs stacked microchannel plates and a crossed delay line readout with a spatial resolution of about 70 microns on a 40mm diameter active area. The sensor tube is connected to electronics that provide absolute timing accuracy for photon arrival times of better than 200 picoseconds. These sensors, when coupled with a simple transmission grating having 300 grooves/mm, can make photon-counting spectroscopic observations with spectral resolution that is an order of magnitude greater and temporal resolution three orders of magnitude greater than the most capable photon-counting imaging detectors that have been used for optical astronomy. We also briefly discuss some of the exciting astrophysical studies that will be enabled by this new technology.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.