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MIRC-X, the 6-telescope beam combination instrument enabling imaging of protoplanetary discs, is now equipped with C-RED One.

MIRC-X combines the light from all six telescopes of the CHARA telescope array, which is an interferometer located on Mount Wilson in California/USA. The CHARA array is worldwide the only optical interferometer that is able to combine the light from 6 telescopes spaced up to 330 meters apart. CHARA and the MIRC-X instrument are ideally suited for imaging stellar surface structures or to image the environment around stars with unprecedented resolution.

The MIRC-X instrument has been built by the University of Exeter (UK) and the University of Michigan (USA) and aims to make the discs around young stars for the first time accessible with 6-telescopes infrared interferometric imaging. These discs constitute the left-over material from the star formation process and provide the stage where planets form. Once planets have formed, they shape the disc environment, for instance by carving out gaps or by stirring up the disc material in warps. MIRC-X will enable astronomers to obtain direct images of these inner disc processes, providing a glimpse on how our own solar system might have looked like 4.6 billion years ago, during its formation phase.

C-RED One uses the SAPHIRA e-APD detector by LEONARDO (formerly SELEX), allowing avalanche amplification and multiplication of electrons. The amplification process reduces the read noise contributions by several orders of magnitudes, enabling MIRC-X to detect the faint starlight associated with young stars and their protoplanetary discs.

First Light team would like to send a huge THANK YOU to the MIRC-X team, for their amazing job and sharing their results !

For more information : http://mircx.skraus.eu

Fig. 1: Image of test fringes obtained with the MIRC-X instrument and C-RED One. Top is the image without gain, equivalent to the one obtained with a classical scientific infrared camera, bottom is the image obtained with C-RED One, showing the spectacular increase of signal to noise ratio when avalanche gain is applied

Fig. 2: The graph shows the cut of the images in figure 1 cut without gain (top) and with avalanche gain applied (bottom


  C-RED One: The project leading to this application has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 673944