MONSOON Image Acquisition System

MONSOON is an NOIRLab "full open-source" development effort to address the need for detector-limited image acquisition for the next generation of astronomical instruments not only for NOIRLab but for the entire astronomical community.

MONSOON is an architecture for a flexible solution for the acquisition of pixel data from scientific CDD and IR detectors. The architecture provides a front end interfaces to the observing and instrument control software and a back end interface to the observatory data handling system. These interfaces are based the standard "Observatory System Reference Model" which is shown here.

The architecture provides for an extensible and flexible modular structure to cover detector controller applications ranging from a focal plane with a single detector to very large focal planes made from arrays of detectors. The basic hierarchy of a MONSOON Image Acquisition System is shown here.

There are currently three physical implementations of the MONSOON Image Acquisition System Architecture.

Designed and built to accommodate the requirements for both IR and CCD large focal planes that NOIRLab developed for instrumentation efforts in the early part of the twenty first century. These instrument projects were NEWFIRM, ODI, and LSST.

Which is the result of the technology transfer to Fermilab - based on the open source nature of MONSOON - to satisfy the requirements for the Dark Energy Camera. This is a variant of the MONSOON Orange design that increases the physical video and clock channel density to suit the prime focus instrument. This design also updates the technology used to implement the hardware.

MONSOON Torrent.
Is a design based on the requirement to normalize the detector controller technology for the NOIRLab System Observatories and supports the small and medium sized focal planes. This design replaces obsolete technology and provides a complete and integrated controller solution for an economic price.

Why a New Controller?

New project initiatives at NOIRLab such as ORION, NEWFIRM, QUOTA, and ODI have defined the need for scalable, multichannel, high-speed image acquisition. Systems of this scale and performance raise new challenges in terms of communication bandwidth, data storage and data processing requirements which are not adequately met be currently existing astronomical controllers. In order to meet this demand, new techniques for not only a new detector controller but rather a new image acquisition architecture, have been defined. These very same concepts can and should be extended to even larger systems. These extremely large scale imaging systems also raise less obvious concerns in previously neglected areas of controller design such as physical size and form factor issues, power dissipation and cooling near the telescope, system assembly/test/ integration time, reliability, and total cost of ownership.

Our Vision

At NOIRLab we have taken efforts to look outside of the astronomical community for solutions found in other disciplines to similar classes of problems. A large number of the challenges raised by these system needs are already successfully being faced in other areas such as telecommunications, instrumentation, aerospace, and others. Efforts have also been made to use true commercial off the shelf (COTS) system elements, and find truly technology independent solutions for a number of system design issues whenever possible.

Any new detector acquisition system should:

  1. Look out to the foreseeable future using the latest technology.
  2. Embrace all the relevant imaging devices and systems currently existing, in the planning stages, or on the visible horizon.
  3. Consider the "total" view of the observatory as an integrated system where the output is high-quality science data ready to fuel the production of scientific papers and the advancement of astronomy.
  4. Maximize "open-shutter" integration time, including reduced system overhead, and increased system reliability, thereby maximizing observing time.
  5. Provide "detector-limited" imaging system performance.

MONSOON: Path to the Future

This forward looking approach has moved our efforts at NOIRLab toward developing a modular, scalable architecture, which addresses the larger data pipeline and information flow issues, not simply device interface. In reference to the torrential summer rains of Tucson, and the flood of pixels defined by the next generation imaging systems, this system is named MONSOON. MONSOON is more than a controller, but rather an image acquisition system architecture. MONSOON has been specifically designed to meet and exceed the requirements of ORION, NEWFIRM, QUOTA, and ODI.

Contact and Enquiries

For information concerning MONSOON Technology please contact: Peter Moore, lead engineer, pmoore_at_noao_dot_edu, +56 51 220 5233 or +56 51 220 5208 


Updated on May 15, 2022, 10:08 am