The enabling technology that makes the M3 possible is a new type of combined visible-infrared image array developed by the Teledyne Imaging Sensors group at TS&I. The sensor array is produced using a mixture of three elements – mercury, cadmium and tellurium – to grow crystals that are very sensitive to light. The crystal structure, which is called MCT, is grown precisely one atomic layer at a time in a vacuum chamber through the Molecular Beam Epitaxy process. For the past two decades, Teledyne’s MCT detectors have been used for infrared sensors in several space missions, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. What makes the image sensor in M3 different from earlier generations of infrared arrays is that special processing has been used to make the sensor be able to see both visible and infrared light. This new type of detector technology, called “substrate-removed MCT,” is very sensitive, detecting about 80% of the incident light in visible and infrared bands.
During the next two years, the M3 is designed to image the entire lunar surface with unprecedented spatial and spectral resolution. The M3 is an “imaging spectrometer” that simultaneously takes images in 261 colors, from the blue end of visible light (430 nm) through near infrared wavelengths (3,000 nm). Comparison of the brightness in each narrow color band will enable scientists to determine the composition and mineralogy of the entire lunar surface with spatial resolution about equal to the size of a football field.
“The M3 has the first substrate-removed MCT detector operating in space,” said James Beletic, Director of Astronomy & Civil Space at Teledyne Imaging Sensors. “Substrate-removed MCT is opening a new era in space astronomy and planetary science. This new type of visible-infrared sensor will be used in many future NASA missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, and next generation Earth observation satellites.”
For more information, a companion press release from JPL can be found at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2008-239.
Led for NASA by principal investigator Carle Pieters of Brown University, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper was designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Teledyne Technologies is a leading provider of sophisticated electronic subsystems, instrumentation and communication products, engineered systems, aerospace engines, and energy and power generation systems. Teledyne Technologies’ operations are primarily located in the United States, the United Kingdom and Mexico. For more information, visit Teledyne Technologies’ website at www.teledyne.com.
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Jason VanWees, 805-373-4542
Robyn E. McGowan, 805-373-4540