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Proceedings Paper

Space-based photometric precision from ground-based telescopes
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Paper Abstract

Ground-based telescopes supported by lidar and spectrophotometric auxiliary instrumentation can attain space-based precision for all-sky photometry, with uncertainties dominated by fundamental photon counting statistics. Earth's atmosphere is a wavelength-, directionally- and time-dependent turbid refractive element for every ground-based telescope, and is the primary factor limiting photometric measurement precision. To correct accurately for the transmission of the atmosphere requires direct measurements of the wavelength-dependent transmission in the direction and at the time that the supported photometric telescope is acquiring its data. While considerable resources have been devoted to correcting the effects of the atmosphere on angular resolution, the effects on precision photometry have largely been ignored. We describe the facility-class lidar that observes the stable stratosphere, and a spectrophotometer that observes NIST absolutely calibrated standard stars, the combination of which enables fundamentally statistically limited photometric precision. This inexpensive and replicable instrument suite provides the lidar-determined monochromatic absolute transmission of Earth's atmosphere at visible and near-infrared wavelengths to 0.25% per airmass and the wavelengthdependent transparency to less than 1% uncertainty per minute. The atmospheric data are merged to create a metadata stream that allows throughput corrections from data acquired at the time of the scientific observations to be applied to broadband and spectrophotometric scientific data. This new technique replaces the classical use of nightly mean atmospheric extinction coefficients, which invoke a stationary and plane-parallel atmosphere. We demonstrate application of this instrument suite to stellar photometry, and discuss the enhanced value of routinely provably precise photometry obtained with existing and future ground-based telescopes.

Paper Details

Date Published: 20 July 2010
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 7735, Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy III, 77358D (20 July 2010); doi: 10.1117/12.857700
Show Author Affiliations
Peter C. Zimmer, The Univ. of New Mexico (United States)
John T. Mcgraw, The Univ. of New Mexico (United States)
Mark R. Ackermann, The Univ. of New Mexico (United States)
Dean C. Hines, The Univ. of New Mexico (United States)
Anthony B. Hull, The Univ. of New Mexico (United States)
Lisa Rossmann, The Univ. of New Mexico (United States)
Daniel C. Zirzow, The Univ. of New Mexico (United States)
Steven W. Brown, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)
Claire E. Cramer, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)
Gerald T. Fraser, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)
Keith R. Lykke, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)
Allan W. Smith, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)
Christopher W. Stubbs, Harvard Univ. (United States)
John T. Woodward, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7735:
Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy III
Ian S. McLean; Suzanne K. Ramsay; Hideki Takami, Editor(s)

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