A staring array, staring-plane array, focal-plane array (FPA), or focal-plane is an image sensing device consisting of an array (typically rectangular) of light-sensing pixels at the focal plane of a lens. FPAs are used most commonly for imaging purposes (e.g. taking pictures or video imagery), but can also be used for non-imaging purposes such as spectrometry, LIDAR, and wave-front sensing.
In radio astronomy the term "FPA" refers to an array at the focus of a radio-telescope (see full article on Focal Plane Arrays). At optical and infrared wavelengths it can refer to a variety of imaging device types, but in common usage it refers to two-dimensional devices that are sensitive in the infrared spectrum. Devices sensitive in other spectra are usually referred to by other terms, such as CCD (charge-coupled device) and CMOS image sensor in the visible spectrum. FPAs operate by detecting photons at particular wavelengths and then generating an electrical charge, voltage, or resistance in relation to the number of photons detected at each pixel. This charge, voltage, or resistance is then measured, digitized, and used to construct an image of the object, scene, or phenomenon that emitted the photons.
Applications for infrared FPAs include missile or related weapons guidance sensors, infrared astronomy, manufacturing inspection, thermal imaging for firefighting, medical imaging, and infrared phenomenology (such as observing combustion, weapon impact, rocket motor ignition and other events that are interesting in the infrared spectrum).