We are all aware of the amazing astronomical images produced with telescopes these days, particularly those displayed as color representations and shown off on websites and in magazines. For those of us who are observers, we deal with our own amazing images produced during each observing run. Just as spectacular are photometric, astrometric, and spectroscopic results generally receiving less fanfare but often of more astrophysical interest. What all of these results have in common is the fact that behind every good optical image lies a good charge-coupled device.
Charge-coupled devices, or CCDs as we know them, are involved in many aspects of everyday life. Examples include video cameras for home use and those set up to automatically trap speeders on British highways, hospital X-ray imagers and high-speed oscilloscopes, and digital cameras used as quality control monitors. This book discusses these remarkable semiconductor devices and their many applications in modern day astronomy.
Written as an introduction to CCDs for observers using professional or off-the-shelf CCD cameras as well as a reference guide, this volume is aimed at students, novice users, and all the rest of us who wish to learn more of the details of how a CCD operates. Topics include the various types of CCD; the process of data taking and reduction; photometric, astrometric, and spectroscopic methods; and CCD applications outside of the optical bandpass. The level of presentation was aimed not only at college or professional level readers but also at a more general audience including the ever-growing number of highly trained and motivated amateurs and other professionals in technical areas in which CCDs play a role.
Chapters 2 and 3 contain all the fundamental information on CCD operation and characteristics while each remaining chapter can be mastered individually. In a book of this length, many aspects must be treated briefly. However, I have made an effort to provide self-contained detail of the important aspects of CCDs while including numerous references to the detailed professional literature for those desiring a deeper understanding. Additionally, throughout the book, examples related to common observational occurrences as well as footnotes discussing interesting but not mainstream topics are included. Appendices list other reference works of interest, CCD manufacturers, numerous website addresses of interest, and a brief introduction to image displays.
This book started with an idea for a new series of handbooks, including a volume on CCDs. I am happy to thank the editor, Adam Black, and Peter Stetson for allowing me to be involved in this series and write this book. The folks at Cambridge University Press, particularly Adam, have been very helpful, dealing with my many questions during the writing process. Michie Shaw and the staff at TechBooks have helped greatly in the final steps of production. I would like to thank the anonymous readers of an early draft of this book for their comments and for pointing out some important areas and results I had overlooked. Two readers, Peter Stetson and John Huchra, suggested coverage of material that has led to the inclusion of additional topics in the final version. A number of colleagues have provided information, graphs, references, and support during the writing of this book, all of which I appreciate. I thank my former and current students and postdocs for keeping me on my toes regarding many of the topics herein. Chris Sabbey kindly provided Figure 6.8, and the color figures in the book (Figs. 1.1 and 4.6) were taken by Simon Tulloch and provided by Derek Ives, both of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre.
I would like to acknowledge and thank my parents, Cecil and Barbara, for allowing me to be "scientific" during my childhood. My experimentation, often at the expense of household items, was not always successful but was never discouraged. These experiences deeply planted the seed of scientific fascination in my being. Appreciation is also passed along to my brother Terry, for the many hours we spent together exploring the world around us. Particularly noteworthy were the times we spent watching, analyzing, and laughing at "B" sci-fi movies.
During the writing of this volume on CCDs, many opportunities were missed related to spending time with my son Graham and my wife and friend Mary. Both were always supportive of the effort, encouraged its completion, and have accumulated many IOUs, which I will now have the pleasure of paying off. I appreciate their unfailing love.
I have had fun writing this book and learning even more about CCDs, almost as much fun as I have when I observe with them. I hope that you the reader will find this work of interest as well and enjoy paging through it often. Astronomy has always fascinated humans and if this treatise allows you to obtain a better knowledge of CCDs and with it even more fascination with the Universe around us, it will have been a success.
"Since The Beginning Of Time, The Universe Has Called To Awaken Each Of Us. To Understand The Universe Is To Understand Ourselves."
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