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Image Buffer Module
Intelligent, deep pixel buffer for NOAO MONSOON Image Acquisition system

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) has developed their next generation detector electronics package called MONSOON. The MONSOON Image Acquisition system was designed from the start to be able to handle multiple detector types unlike traditional camera designs which are designed for one specific detector. Maintainability and scalability were key design goals of the MONSOON development team.

In March 2007, Fishcamp Engineering began development of the Image Buffer Module (IBM) sub-system for the MONSOON project. Leveraging the scalability features of the system, the addition of the IBM sub-assembly provides unique and significant functionality to MONSOON.

The primary objective of the IBM design was to provide for a deep pixel buffer for the data captured from the image sensor. As such it provides for 4 GBytes of fast DDR2 memory to the system. This is enough to handle a complete image from NOAO's extremely wide field infrared imager (NEWFIRM) utilizing 62 Fowler samples per image. Furthermore, the IBM design incorporates logic to perform pixel de-interleaving and formatting operations on the image data, in real time, as the image is being uploaded to the Pixel Acquisition Node (PAN) computer. This significantly relieves the post image processing time needed to be done on the image after capture.

In keeping with the scalability design goal of the MONSOON system, we have provided for additional image processing capability in the IBM design. Future plans are in place to have the IBM pixel processor perform very fast computation of 2D centroid positions of objects within small sets of pixel data in the image. The results of these calculations will be used to formulate commands to inject back to the Master Control Processor to control the acquisition process. The goal is to be able to work with Orthogonal Transfer Arrays in order to provide real-time, electronic guide capability to the instrument.

Four IBM circuit cards were delivered to NOAO in Tucson, AZ this past August. Testing is underway with the NEWFIRM image sensor at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Future deployments will be made at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.




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