Balloon flight test of a Compton telescope based on scintillators with silicon photomultiplier readouts

Academic Article


  • We present the results of the first high-altitude balloon flight test of a concept for an advanced Compton telescope making use of modern scintillator materials with silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) readouts. There is a need in the fields of high-energy astronomy and solar physics for new medium-energy gamma-ray (~0.4 - 10 MeV) detectors capable of making sensitive observations. A fast scintillator- based Compton telescope with SiPM readouts is a promising solution to this instrumentation challenge, since the fast response of the scintillators permits the rejection of background via time-of-flight (ToF) discrimination. The Solar Compton Telescope (SolCompT) prototype was designed to demonstrate stable performance of this technology under balloon-flight conditions. The SolCompT instrument was a simple two-element Compton telescope, consisting of an approximately one-inch cylindrical stilbene crystal for a scattering detector and a one-inch cubic LaBr3:Ce crystal for a calorimeter detector. Both scintillator detectors were read out by 2 x 2 arrays of Hamamatsu S11828-3344 MPPC devices. Custom front-end electronics provided optimum signal rise time and linearity, and custom power supplies automatically adjusted the SiPM bias voltage to compensate for temperature-induced gain variations. A tagged calibration source, consisting of ~240 nCi of Co-60 embedded in plastic scintillator, was placed in the field of view and provided a known source of gamma rays to measure in flight. The SolCompT balloon payload was launched on 24 August 2014 from Fort Sumner, NM, and spent ~3.75 hours at a float altitude of ~123,000 feet. The instrument performed well throughout the flight. After correcting for small (~10%) residual gain variations, we measured an in-flight ToF resolution of ~760 ps (FWHM). Advanced scintillators with SiPM readouts continue to show great promise for future gamma-ray instruments.
  • Authors

  • Bloser, PF
  • Legere, JS
  • Bancroft, CM
  • Ryan, JM
  • McConnell, Mark
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • March 2016
  • Keywords

  • Balloon flight instruments
  • Compton telescopes
  • LaBr3:Ce
  • Scintillators
  • Silicon photomultipliers
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 92
  • End Page

  • 103
  • Volume

  • 812