Digitizer cards boost high resolution telescopes

November 24, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Digitizer cards boost high resolution telescopes
The MAGIC telescope project is using the M4i.4450-x8 digitizer cards from Spectrum Instrumentation for high resolution GPU-based measurements of stars

German card maker Spectrum Instrumentation is supplying high performance digitizers for a high resolution telescope project in Spain.

The MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-Ray Imaging Cherenkov) project detects signals that are so so any spurious signals and crosstalk would swamp them. Having evaluated several makes of digitizer card, the operators of the twin telescopes in La Palma, Spain, chose Spectrum’s M4i.4450-x8 digitizer cards. 

"We found that these cards not only had the lowest levels of spurious signals and crosstalk of all the PC cards that we tested," said David Fink from the Max Planck Institute for Physics, who is in charge of Electronic Development on the project, "but the performance of each card was also identical. The latter is so important as you are trying to compare the differences between the signals from each telescope. The technique is very sensitive to correlated signals and crosstalk between channels including anything picked up along the way from the optical sensors through to the computer that the digitizer cards are mounted in. To put it into perspective, these Spectrum cards enable us to precisely measure fluctuations of the light intensity on nanosecond time scales giving unprecedented sensitivity that is around ten times better than that achieved in the 1970s with the Narrabri interferometer.”

"The other important factor in choosing Spectrum digitizer cards is their excellent reputation for reliability. The cards are located by the two telescopes that are high up in the mountains on the island of La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands, so it is not a simple matter to swap in a new card if there is an issue. Plus, there is the cost of instrument downtime and lost observation time. The fact that Spectrum provides a five-year warranty shows their faith in the high quality and reliability of their cards which was supported when we checked with other users in

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