The purpose of this lab is to simulate astronomical observing in a controlled daytime environment. We will use a CCD camera to image a simulated galaxy with a telescopic lens. We will teach you the physics of CCD detectors and how they operate along with their drawbacks and common sources of error. We will show you images of various common sources of noise and anomalous signals and explain what causes them and how to mitigate them. We will explain how and why to take calibration images and the methodology of using them to reduce science images.

An overview talk about CCDs can be found here.


The lab write-up can be found here, and all source files and other files can be found here.

The CCD Imaging Lab hardware consists of four components:

  1. On one end is the CCD computer, hooked up to the CCD Camera and Filter Wheel.  You’ll use CCDSoft on this computer to take your images. You may need to adjust the CCD Camera position slightly to bring your images into best focus.
  2. On the other end is the image computer. This is your proxy for the night sky.
  3. In between is the lens system.  This is your proxy for the telescope.  Fun fact: the lens was formerly employed in U2 spy planes, it’s radioactive!
  4. A dark box encasing the entire system to block incoming ambient light  sources like room lights etc.

In this lab you will use the image computer to display images the lens system will then image onto the CCD Camera which is controlled by the CCD computer.

Lab Kit Inventory

  • The lab uses and ST-9XE CCD Camera.  The spec sheet can be found here.
  • The lab uses the CCDSoft software.  A license will be provided. Startup instructions can be found here.