The development of a detector system for faint object spectroscopy on the Isaac Newton Telescope
The work reported in this thesis describes the development of the CCD instrumentation for the Faint Object Spectrograph on the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, more commonly known as the La Palma Observatory. The Faint Object Spectrograph is a highly efficient, fixed-format CCD spectrograph aimed at low resolution spectrophotometry (15-20 A FWHM) over a wide spectral range (400-1050 nm). Its high throughput, compared with that of more conventional spectrographs, is due to the small number of optical surfaces, and the minimum vignetting which results from, locating the CCD inside the spectrograph camera. A CCD camera system is described which was developed primarily to test and commission the Faint Object Spectrograph, but also to assess the characteristics of the GEC P8603 CCD used In the spectrograph, and optimize its performance for this application. The use of CCDs in astronomy is now commonplace but there still remains some uncertainty as to which aspects of their performance need to be most critically assessed when choosing a device for a particular application. It is argued that it is important to consider not only the obvious characteristics such as quantum efficiency, spectral coverage, readout noise and geometrical format, but also, and particularly at astronomically relevant low-light levels, the consequences of the more subtle properties such as charge transfer efficiency, threshold effects and chip defects. The CCD detector in the Faint Object Spectrograph is located inside the spectrograph camera and needs to be positioned to high accuracy within the optical path. A microprocessor system is described which enables the CCD detector to be aligned remotely from the observer's control console. Finally, the commissioning of the Faint Object Spectrograph on the Isaac Newton Telescope is described, and some of the first results obtained during commissioning are presented in order to illustrate its potential in the field of faint object spectroscopy.