Prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope for the Cherenkov Telescope Array: Commissioning the Optical System

the CTA SCT Consortium

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A prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT) has been constructed at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory as a candidate for the medium-sized telescopes of the Cherenkov Telescope Array Observatory (CTAO). CTAO is currently entering early construction phase of the project and once completed it will vastly improve very high energy gamma-ray detection component in multiwavelength and multi-messenger observations due to significantly improved sensitivity, angular resolution and field of view comparing to the current generation of the ground-based gamma-ray observatories H.E.S.S., MAGIC and VERITAS. The pSCT uses a dual aspheric mirror design with a 9.7 m primary mirror and 5.4 m secondary mirror, both of which are segmented. The Schwarzschild-Couder (SC) optical system (OS) selected for the prototype telescope achieves wide field of view of 8 degrees and simultaneously reduces the focal plane plate scale allowing an unprecedented compact (0.78m diameter) implementation of the high-resolution camera (6mm/0.067deg per imaging pixel with 11, 328 pixels) based on the silicon photo-multipliers (SiPMs). The OS of the telescope is designed to eliminate spherical and comatic aberrations and minimize astigmatism to radically improve off-axis imaging and consequently angular resolution across all the field of view with respect to the conventional single-mirror telescopes. Fast and high imaging resolution OS of the pSCT comes with the challenging submillimeter-precision custom alignment system, which was successfully demonstrated with an on-axis point spread function (PSF) of 2.9 arcmin prior to the first-light detection of the Crab Nebula in 2020. Ongoing commissioning activities aim to meet the on-axis PSF design goal of 2.6 arcmin, verify the off-axis performance of the pSCT OS, and develop techniques to maintain alignment stability over telescope structural deformations from pointing and temperature variations. In this contribution, we report on the commissioning status, the optical alignment procedures adopted for segmented OS, and alignment progress to verify and validate design requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number717
JournalProceedings of Science
StatePublished - Mar 18 2022
Event37th International Cosmic Ray Conference, ICRC 2021 - Virtual, Berlin, Germany
Duration: Jul 12 2021Jul 23 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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