CAOSP abstracts, Volume: 43, No.: 3, year: 2014

Abstract: Facility instruments on major telescopes rarely provide photometry on timescales into the sub-second range. The development of dedicated high-time resolution detectors that could be attached as guest instruments was therefore natural to follow up with optical observations on many highly time variable astronomical objects. Such sources were often discovered first in the radio range (e.g. pulsars, quasars) or with X- and gamma-ray satellites (X-ray binaries, cataclysmic variables, gamma-ray bursts). Although telescopes in the 4 - 8m class would be nice to have for high-time resolution astronomy (HTRA) the access is often oversubscribed. Many currently active HTRA instruments were started on smaller telescopes in the 1-3m class, which provide the flexibility and observation time needed for the observation of highly variable stars. We describe the basic detector types, i.e. fast imaging or photon counting, and current projects. Based on our experience with the fast timing photo-polarimeter OPTIMA (Optical Timing Analyzer), we review some observational constraints on meter-class telescopes. We demonstrate the 'scientific power' of very fast photometry, done with OPTIMA and similar systems on small telescopes, with selected results for a black hole binary, an optical transient magnetar, and the Crab pulsar. %

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Last update: April 17, 2014