Hard-X-Ray/Soft-γ-Ray Imaging Sensor Assembly for Astronomy

A pixilated scintillator is coupled with an array of avalanche photodiodes.

An improved sensor assembly has been developed for astronomical imaging at photon energies ranging from 1 to 100 keV. The assembly includes a thallium-doped cesium iodide scintillator divided into pixels and coupled to an array of high-gain avalanche photodiodes (APDs). Optionally, the array of APDs can be operated without the scintillator to detect photons at energies below 15 keV. The array of APDs is connected to compact electronic readout circuitry that includes, among other things, 64 independent channels for detection of photons in various energy ranges, up to a maximum energy of 100 keV, at a count rate up to 3 kHz. The readout signals are digitized and processed by imaging software that performs “on-the-fly” analysis.

The sensor assembly has been integrated into an imaging spectrometer, along with a pair of coded apertures (Fresnel zone plates) that are used in conjunction with the pixel layout to implement a shadow-masking technique to obtain relatively high spatial resolution without having to use extremely small pixels. Angular resolutions of about 20 arc-seconds have been measured. Thus, for example, the imaging spectrometer can be used to (1) determine both the energy spectrum of a distant x-ray source and the angular deviation of the source from the nominal line of sight of an x-ray telescope in which the spectrometer is mounted or (2) study the spatial and temporal development of solar flares, repeating γ-ray bursters, and other phenomena that emit transient radiation in the hard-x-ray/soft-γ-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

This work was done by Richard A. Myers of Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc. for Goddard Space Flight Center.

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