Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"SPACE: Controller boosts telescope output by damping noise"

Multiply the signal, but not the noise? Who says you can't get something for nothing? These researchers have convinced NASA they can, by virtue of a new controller for CCD cameras that multiplies faint images without magnifying any noise in their signal. Look for every major telescope installation in the world to start using this remarkable new technology in the coming years. R.C.J.

Technology to double the effective lens diameter of the world's telescopes has been invented at the University of Montreal, which recently demonstrated what it says is the most sensitive astronomical camera devised to date. The key to the invention is an electronic controller that decreases optical noise tenfold. The controller provides subelectron resolution with any charge-coupled device (CCD)-based imager, such as the NASA camera attached to Québec's Mont-Mégantic Observatory. Photon etc. (Québec) has licensed the controller design from the University of Montreal and sold the first one to NASA, for the observatory installation; the second to the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil; and a third to a European-Canadian consortium equipping a telescope in Chile. Photon etc. was spun off from the University of Montreal after operating for several years under the university's affiliated École Polytechnique IT business incubator.