First light: February 1999.
Designed and built by: ESA Astrophysics Division.
Description: The instrument is based on the principle that a UV/optical/infrared photon can break Cooper pairs in a superconductor and release an electron packet proportional to the photon energy. The principle opens the opportunity for very high speed photon counting, in which the arrival time and (for the first time in long history of optical astronomy) the photon energy are measured simultaneously. The system provides high QE over a broad wavelength range, and an absence of read-out noise. Within 3 hours of first light, the commissioning team had acquired measurements of the Crab pulsar, and by midnight the 33 ms lightcurve was available. The measurments provided a dramatic confirmation of the instrument´s timing capabilities. The present instrument provided only very limited wavelength resolution (about 100 nm), but the instrument is expected to provide 30 nm resolution in the relatively near future, with an ultimate expectation of as low as 1 nm.
The STJ camera is mounted at GHRIL on the Nasmyth focus.
Scientific and technical impact:
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Publications (ING count: 8; else: 0)
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