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29 September 2004 EMCCD technology and its impact on rapid low-light photometry
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Electron Multiplying Charge Coupled Devices (EMCCDs) are CCD cameras with potentially single-photon detection ability. Signal amplification is achieved by way of a unique electron-multiplying structure built into the silicon, and the gain can be varied in order to overcome the read-noise floor, which is the usual limiting factor in reading out a conventional CCD at high frame rates. In combination with its high quantum efficiencies, the EMCCD holds great promise for time-resolved photometry. We report here results from two observing campaigns aimed at assessing the suitability of EMCCD technology for detecting short-timescale, low-amplitude variability in blazars. Data were taken on the 2.2m telescope at Calar Alto using both front-illuminated and back-illuminated EMCCD cameras from Andor Technology’s iXon range. Approximately 410,000 science frames were recorded over 10 nights. The results presented here illustrate the photometric stability achieved with the cameras, under typical observing conditions. In general, photometric precision down to the level of a few millimagnitudes is found to be possible. We argue that reliable photometry is best achieved with high data collection rates (typically 4 frames per second) coupled to ultra-low-noise detectors such as the EMCCD.
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Niall Smith, Colin Coates, Alan Giltinan, John Howard, Aidan O'Connor, Stephen O'Driscoll, Marcus Hauser, and Stephan Wagner "EMCCD technology and its impact on rapid low-light photometry", Proc. SPIE 5499, Optical and Infrared Detectors for Astronomy, (29 September 2004);


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