A new superconducting detector might supersede CCDs for astronomy


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Good news: A new superconducting detector might supersede CCDs for large astronomical telescopes.

Ben Mazin, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, believes that he is on the cusp of a camera breakthrough: his lab is working on a superconducting detector that could eventually replace the charge-coupled devices (CCDs) that have become de rigueur in both consumer and astronomical digital cameras. Mazin’s detectors, known as microwave kinetic inductance detectors (MKIDs), can simultaneously count photons, measure their energy and record each one’s time of arrival — something that CCDs can do only after the light is split with a prism or a grating, an extra step that adds to the loss of photons.

And you know that inevitably some variation of this technology is going to find its way into ordinary commercial products.

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