The discoveries made in astronomy and astrophysics rely on continued scientific advances in detector technology. Recent advancements like detecting gravitational waves and imaging distant galactic bodies in search of life have taken advantage of decades of progress in scientific instrumentation. To continue these advancements, the Astronomy and Astrophysics survey for the 2020's identifies the need for high resolution x-ray imaging and an increase in small scale missions to support long term scientific goals. The gap in the soft x-ray detector market place is difficult for smaller budget missions to manage as they must choose between cheaper sub-par detectors or those designed for class C and above missions, costing many millions of dollars each. By selecting commercially available sensors for this application, cost per detector decreases and smaller missions will be included in the rapid development cycle of terrestrial detectors that includes larger area arrays and smaller pixels. This will directly impact the size and cost requirements for small scale projects as focusing distance to obtain sub arcsecond resolution decreases. This proposal will leverage Sydor's commercial off the shelf scientific CMOS imager designed for soft x-rays, verify the space readiness, and design a camera system specifically targeted at class D space missions. The sensor used already has > 90% quantum efficiency at 100 - 1000 eV, can image at 48 Hz, and has 11 µm pixels, making it a good candidate for astrophysics applications. In collaboration with researchers at the MIT Kavli Institute polarimetry beamline, the Sydor sCMOS detector will be tested and wavelengths and under conditions relevant to NASA missions including thermal effects on noise, quantum efficiency, radiation damage, and vibration testing. At the completion of this work, a development plan will be in place to bring a low cost, flexible design soft x-ray detector to the astrophysics community in Phase II
This soft x-ray sCMOS detector will benefit polarimetry and high resolution imaging for small scale, class D NASA research applications. Larger array sizes and smaller pixels continually result in breakthroughs in fields like observing quasar jets, gravitational lenses, and supernova remnants. This imager has the potential to further improve resolution this below the 0.5 arcsec obtained with Chandra, and decrease expensive and large focal length requirements associated with larger pixel sensors, all while maintaining low detector cost.
Beyond astronomy applications for NASA, this technology has potential in laboratory soft x-ray experiments like absorption spectroscopy and high resolution imaging. This includes measurements at facilities with benchtop soft x-ray sources and synchrotron facilities. Development for these areas will feed into the design of NASA applications resulting in faster design and function improvements.