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Proceedings Paper

Quantifying photometric observing conditions on Paranal using an IR camera
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Paper Abstract

A Low Humidity and Temperature Profiling (LHATPRO) microwave radiometer, manufactured by Radiometer Physics GmbH (RPG), is used to monitor sky conditions over ESO’s Paranal observatory in support of VLT science operations. In addition to measuring precipitable water vapour (PWV) the instrument also contains an IR camera measuring sky brightness temperature at 10.5 μm. Due to its extended operating range down to -100 °C it is capable of detecting very cold and very thin, even sub-visual, cirrus clouds. We present a set of instrument flux calibration values as compared with a detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) of the IR camera zenith-looking sky brightness data measured above Paranal taken over the past two years. We show that it is possible to quantify photometric observing conditions and that the method is highly sensitive to the presence of even very thin clouds but robust against variations of sky brightness caused by effects other than clouds such as variations of precipitable water vapour. Hence it can be used to determine photometric conditions for science operations. About 60 % of nights are free of clouds on Paranal. More work will be required to classify the clouds using this technique. For the future this approach might become part of VLT science operations for evaluating nightly sky conditions.

Paper Details

Date Published: 6 August 2014
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 9149, Observatory Operations: Strategies, Processes, and Systems V, 91490M (6 August 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2055168
Show Author Affiliations
Florian Kerber, European Southern Observatory (Germany)
Richard R. Querel, National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (New Zealand)
Univ. of Chile (Chile)
Reinhard Hanuschik, European Southern Observatory (Germany)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9149:
Observatory Operations: Strategies, Processes, and Systems V
Alison B. Peck; Chris R. Benn; Robert L. Seaman, Editor(s)

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