Multiwavelength Astronomy

Photo of IR Science Docent

Infrared Science, Judy Pipher

The First Infrared Detector Array

After I got my Ph.D., I was fortunate to obtain one of the first positions at the University of Rochester in this new field of infrared astronomy. Somewhere along the line in the late 1970s, a colleague of mine from Rochester went to work for a research and development group to build detectors. Before he left, I told him, “If you can get me an infrared detector array, that would be great.” One day he phoned me up and he said, “Judy, I have an array for you.” It was 32 by 32 detectors, 1024 altogether—not very big—and it was not developed for astronomy but for infrared military work. In fact, the words “Tank Breaker” were written on the detector array. It became the first infrared array in the world to obtain astronomical observations (first of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn, then of the starburst galaxy M82, the galactic center, and other infrared-emitting sources).

There were other groups developing arrays at the time, but we got ours working and on a telescope before anybody else did. We took the first infrared images of space at wavelengths up to 5 microns, a considerably shorter wavelength regime than I had worked on previously.

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This material is based upon work supported by NASA under Grant Nos. NNX09AD33G and NNX10AE80G issued through the SMD ROSES 2009 Program.

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