The Kiso Observatory observation dome (Photographed with an ultra-large-scale, ultra-high-sensitivity CMOS sensor amid illumination of 0.1-0.3 lux)
The ultra-large-scale, ultra-high-sensitivity CMOS sensor (left) alongside a 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor
Canon Inc. today announced that an ultra-large-scale, ultra-high-sensitivity CMOS sensor developed by the company has enabled the video recording across a wide 3.3° x 3.3° field of view of meteors with an equivalent apparent magnitude of 10.*1
The sensor, with a chip size measuring 202 x 205 mm, the world's largest*2 surface area for a CMOS sensor, was installed in the Schmidt telescope at the University of Tokyo's Kiso Observatory, Institute of Astronomy, School of Science (Kiso-gun, Nagano prefecture).
With a chip size of 202 x 205 mm, the ultra-large-scale, ultra-high-sensitivity CMOS sensor, developed by Canon last year, is among the largest that can be produced from an approximately 300-mm (12 inch) wafer.*2 The device is approximately 40 times the size of Canon's largest commercial CMOS sensor*3 and makes possible video recording in dark conditions with as little as 0.3 lux*4 of illumination. In January this year, the CMOS sensor was installed on the focal plane of the Kiso Observatory's 105 cm Schmidt telescope and used to record video at approximately 60 frames per second, resulting in the successful video recording of faint meteors with an equivalent apparent magnitude of 10 across a wide 3.3° x 3.3° field of view.
Detecting faint meteors with apparent magnitudes greater than 7 has proven difficult using conventional observation technologies, with sightings of meteors with an equivalent apparent magnitude of 10 limited to only 10 per year. However, video recorded using the ultra-large-scale, ultra-high-sensitivity CMOS sensor, combined with the Schmidt telescope, which enables observation across a wide field of view, yielded a one-minute segment during which more meteors with an equivalent apparent magnitude of 10 could be detected than could previously be identified during the span of a year.
Statistical analysis of the video data could lead to an increased understanding of the influence that meteors may have exerted on the development of life on Earth.
Additionally, because the combination of the CMOS sensor and Schmidt telescope facilitates the highly efficient investigation of objects traveling at high speeds across the sky, it makes possible the detection of an increased number of celestial phenomena in addition to meteors, such as space debris*5 and heavenly bodies moving in the solar system. Accordingly, the technology is expected to contribute to improved measuring accuracy in determining the position and speed of these objects.
Through the further development of distinctive CMOS image sensors, Canon will break new ground in the world of new image expression, in the areas of still images as well as video.
The results of the abovementioned observations will be presented at the Astronomical Society of Japan's autumn 2011 meeting, which will be held from September 19 (Mon.) to 22 (Thu.) at Kagoshima University in Kyushu, Japan.
*1 Apparent magnitude is a measure of a star's brightness as seen by an observer on Earth. The brighter the celestial body appears, the lower the value of its apparent magnitude. The darkest star visible to the naked eye has an apparent magnitude of approximately 6.
*2 As of September 12, 2011. Based on a Canon study.
*3 The approximately 21.1 megapixel 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor employed in the company's EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR cameras.
*4 The level of brightness during a full moon.
*5 Refers to a variety of human-made debris in orbit around Earth, including artificial satellites and the rockets used to launch them into orbit.