K-CAM: the KERNEL camera, is installed at the focus of SCExAO!

The Subaru Telescope at sunset

Toward the end of June 2018, the C-RED-1 camera built by First Light Imaging for the KERNEL project was installed on the Nasmyth IR focus of the Subaru Telescope and coupled with the SCExAO instrument.

Custom frame designed by Romain Laugier, KERNEL project PhD student and built by the OCA’s S2M service, to couple the C-RED-1 camera to the IR side port of SCExAO.
Frantz Martinache (KERNEL PI) reconnecting the KERNEL project C-RED-1 camera after installation of the camera on the IR side port of SCExAO.
Action shot of KERNEL PhD student Romain Laugier, fixing broken connections to the pulse-tube cooler of KCAM.
K-CAM: The KERNEL project C-RED-1 camera, is finally ready to observe on the IR side port of SCExAO.

Although it took more work than anticipated, the camera was successfully integrated to the SCExAO instrument both optically and in software, now using a VisioLink F4 frame grabber sold by EDT. The optics inside SCExAO make it possible to send light in focus to this camera and the images produced by the camera are written to shared memory so as to be integrated with the rest of the real time SCExAO software environment.

In its default full frame mode, the C-RED-1 makes it possible to acquire frames at 3.5 kHz. In its smallest window mode, the camera can run a little over 71 kHz. The high sensitivity of the camera, coupled with the high frame rate, are real game changers in the realm of high-contrast imaging and really make it possible to envision driving a deformable mirror directly from the focal plane. At these speeds, speckles don’t stand a chance!

The camera was partly commissioned on-sky during unfortunately rather poor observing conditions… but engineering observations are planned for October 2018 so this camera will get its chance to shine!

The software running the “K-cam” camera is maintained on Frantz’s github page.