Flawed analogue-to-digital converter can turn a whole bunch of 1s into a cosmic joke

Users of sixteen of the world's most prestigious optical telescopes - including the Hubble Space Telescope - are revisiting old data in case an analogue-to-digital converter design has polluted the instruments' measurements.

Analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs) are where the real world meets the digital, and in the case of the optical telescopes, they convert pixel data from the charge-coupled devices (CCDs) in the instruments' cameras.

An international group of researchers trying to identify what looked like a systematic error in an instrument in Hawaii discovered the ADC's reference voltage could be affected by the ADC's output - in other words a feedback error.

That's bad news for astronomers using the sixteen instruments, which the researchers found are affected by the bug.

In this paper at arXiv, Kyle Boone and seven collaborators from the US, Canada and France needed to identify a strange error in data from the SuperNova Integral Field Spectrograph (SNIFS) instrument in Hawaii.

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