Method for Accurately Calibrating a Spectrometer Using Broadband Light

A novel method has been developed for performing very fine calibration of a spectrometer. This process is particularly useful for modern miniature charge-coupled device (CCD) spectrometers where a typical factory wavelength calibration has been performed and a finer, more accurate calibration is desired. Typically, the factory calibration is done with a spectral line source that generates light at known wavelengths, allowing specific pixels in the CCD array to be assigned wavelength values. This method is good to about 1 nm across the spectrometer’s wavelength range. This new method appears to be accurate to about 0.1 nm, a factor of ten improvement.

White light is passed through an unbalanced Michelson interferometer, producing an optical signal with significant spectral variation. A simple theory can be developed to describe this spectral pattern, so by comparing the actual spectrometer output against this predicted pattern, errors in the wavelength assignment made by the spectrometer can be determined.

The primary unique feature of this innovation is its ability to calibrate every pixel across a given wavelength range as opposed to only calibrating a few pixels and interpolating the other values as is currently done.

This work was done by Stephen Simmons and Robert Youngquist of Kennedy Space Center. KSC-13331

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