Best Spanish PhD in instrumentation SEA prize awarded to a thesis on the PANIC camera

PANIC is an infrared, wide-field camera jointly developed by the Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC)

Designed for the 2.2 m and 3.5 m telescopes at Calar Alto Observatory, it is a highly versatile instrument to study galaxies, stars and even small bodies in the Solar System

Concepción Cárdenas Vázquez has been awarded the III SEA Prize to the best Spanish PhD in Instrumentation, Computing and Technological Development in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017-2018), given by the Spanish Astronomical Society (SEA). Entitled “PANIC, una cámara infrarroja de gran campo para Calar Alto” (PANIC, an infrared wide-field camera for Calar Alto), the thesis focuses on the PANIC wide-field infrared camera, which can operate on the 2.2 m or 3.5 m telescopes at Calar Alto. The work encompasses the theoretical study, the optical design, the assembly and integration, and the verification of PANIC on both telescopes.

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PANIC belongs to the new generation of wide field infrared cameras for ground-based telescopes and it is the first of its kind in the northern hemisphere belonging to the Spanish astronomical community. Many science cases benefit from its wide field of view and from the filters it includes, from extragalactic astronomy to the study of the Solar System, and it is an ideal instrument to perform large survey-type observations. PANIC can contribute as well to the study of star formation, gamma ray bursts or very distant quasars.

rafgl EN“The development of the camera included various important challenges – Concepción Cárdenas (MPIA) says –, due to the large field of view required on the 2.2 m telescope and to the desired wavelength range (near infrared). Firstly, we had to face the challenge of designing large size lenses, optimizing a system with severe off-axis aberrations (in particular, astigmatism and field curvature), as well as minimizing chromatic aberrations due to the wide spectral range. Secondly, PANIC operates attached to the Cassegrain focus of the telescope which imposes the challenge of folding the optical path and fitting the instrument in a quite limited envelope.”

Its special features make PANIC unique among the few instruments of this kind existing at the present time. The camera operates in the near infrared, a wavelength range which requires vacuum conditions and cryogenic systems to cool, in the case of PANIC, down to 178 Celsius degrees below zero. Its large field of view covers the full Moon on the 2.2 m telescope, and on the 3.5 m telescope, Jupiter and its main moons (or Galilean satellites). The instrument performance, like the plate scale, the field of view, the image quality, and the distortion across the full field, as measured at both telescopes, confirms that PANIC fulfills all of the requirements. Observations with PANIC allow the (inter)national astronomical community to tackle innovative and original science projects.


Since the commissioning of the camera, first results from various science projects have been published. All PANIC-based publications, including technical publications issued during the development of the instrument, can be found on the webpage of the instrument:

In August, 2018 a project started to upgrade the current mosaic of four detectors by a new monolithic detector. After receiving the new, large detector, the fine tuning and checking of its optical quality, Calar Alto expects to reopen this wide infrared eye in 2020.


Thesis full text from Concepción Cárdenas Vázquez available at:

Link to the SEA award news:


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