At Sanitas we are proud of the participation, together with National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF),  in the development of Photon Counting Unit (PCU), a module integrated in Multi Element Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy (METIS), the Coronagraph of ESA Solar Orbiter.

Credits – ESA

The Solar Orbiter mission is dedicated to observe the turbulent, sometimes violent, surface of the Sun and study the changes that take place in the solar wind that flows outward at high speed from our nearest star. The scientific payload elements of Solar Orbiter includes both in-situ and remote sensing instruments: METIS belongs to the second group of instruments. It simultaneously images the visible and ultraviolet emission of the solar corona and diagnoses with high precision the structure and dynamics of the full corona, in a region that is crucial in linking the solar atmospheric phenomena to their evolution in the inner heliosphere.


The PCU module that is part of METIS instrument, realizes an image processing function in order to generate a list of detected photon coordinates, that will be further elaborated by other METIS units. The PCU module is implemented in FPGA, adopting a pipelined architecture, to fulfill  the requirement for processing in real time the high amount of data generated by the UV (ultraviolet) detector, without limiting the detector dynamic. Sanitas solid experience on FPGA development has been successfully spent to implement the PCU algorithms.

The HW development of the module has been completed and officially delivered. This is a fundamental step to go ahead within the challenging schedule: the Solar Orbiter launch in currently planned to take place in February 2019.