Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad Gobierno de Canarias Universidad de La Laguna CSIC Centro de Excelencia Severo Ochoa
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias - IAC
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Technological Development Projects

Optical instrumentation

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High temporal and spatial resolution in the optical for the IAC

High temporal and spatial resolution in the optical for the IAC

Web of the project


FastCam is an instrument developed by the IAC and the UPCT to obtain extremely high temporal and spatial resolution images in the optical wavelength range from ground-based telescopes.

The instrument consists of a very low level noise and very fast readout speed L3CCD camera that allows reaching the diffraction limit in I band (850 nm) with medium-sized telescopes. FastCam incorporates our own special software package to analyze series of tens of thousands of images in parallel with the data acquisition at the telescope.

FastCam has been tested in three telescopes: 1.52mTCS (OT) and 2.5m NOT and 4.2m WHT (ORM). In the three cases the theoretical limit of each telescope resolution has been obtained for I band (850 nm) -0.17, 0.10 and 0.07 arcsec, respectively- with similar resolutions in V and R bands. 

FastCam is a TCS’ common user instrument since September 2008.

Recent developments:

  • Arrival, integration, tests and installation of the new optomechanics, which has brought strength and precision to the instrument.
  • New version of the user interface, fully renovated, together with the new 8Gb PC to display and on-line reduce the data.
  • Development of new routines to reduce the data from wavelets analysis to minimize the wings of the stars and so to detect extremely closed objects.
  • Additional refrigeration with a closed cycled to stabilize and decrease even more the temperature.

Other instruments

One of them is a Wide Field FastCam, with a 1k x 1k camera and different optics offering a FOV of~12 arcmin, at the expense of increasing the pixel size to 0.6”/px. It has been installed many times at the TCS.

Two other FastCam have been developed: FC for the WHT, used together with the WHT’s adaptive optics and FC for the NOT. Now, this project can simultaneously observe with TCS, NOT and WHT.


The use of FastCam@TCS and FastCam@NOT by the astronomers is growing each semester. The first refereed papers with data taken with FastCam has recently appeared, besides of several contributions to meetings

Future work

Some details are still needed to complete FastCam:

  • A new and more powerful PC to take and reduce the data
  • Covers for the optomechanics
  • A system to check that the field being observed is the desired
  • To improve the user interface and its software
  • To made and install an ADC
  • To be able to observe in the whole optical range, for which the TCS’ guiding system should be modified.

Regarding the other instruments:

  • To verify if the Wide Field FastCam must be a common user instrument for the TCS
  • To complete the FastCam for the NOT
  • Advances in AOLI for WHT.


Principal Investigator: Rafael Rebolo

Manager : Álex Oscoz

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