Relative Flux Calibration

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  • #573685
    john simpson
    Participant

    I’ve not been able to get a decent match between my spectra & the Miles references of the group of stars in Taurus reported by Robin in “Testing ALPY 600”. I wavelength calibrated HD27819 using ISIS Pre-defined  Mode [Balmer Lines] giving an RMS error of approx. 0.3A and then calculated the instrument response. The corrected spectrum of HD27819 matched well with it’s Miles reference. However, when I used this to calibrate the other spectra the comparisons with their Miles references are significantly in error [see fig]. There is clearly something amiss in my set-up or  measurements or reduction method, but I haven’t been able to determine what.  I’ve repeated the process using HD27962 with the same outcome – RMS errors in this instance of approx. 0.15A, good match of corrected spectrum with it’s Miles reference, but significant errors in other spectra when it’s used for calibration. The instrument responses calculated using HD27819 & HD27962 are markedly different. Am using Celestron C6 SCT @ f/10 with ATIK 314l+ & ALPY w/o calibration module. Wondered if it might be mismatch in focal ratio with ALPY or if not might others have some suggestions w.r.t. where I might be going wrong?

    #577875
    Andrew Smith
    Participant

    Were the spectra taken at a similar air mass? The instrument response includes the effect of the atmosphere as well as the instrument. 

    Regards Andrew

    #577876
    john simpson
    Participant

    Thanks for the quick response Andrew – yes, not the same, but similar air mass. The two in the graph are close together and image sequences were taken one after the other over 25mins or so. Altitude range 51-52 deg. I’m ALPY novice so I suspect something basically wrong about my set-up or what I’ve done to process, the errors seem to be too big compared to what’s been achieved by Robin. The annoying thing is that the corrected HD27819 seemed so close to its Miles library ref.

    john s

    #577883
    Tony Rodda
    Participant

    John,

    I find the freehand drawing of the response curve can produce markedly different results with different attempts.

    Also, the placing of the star on/in the slot (and what portion is recorded) also plays it’s part.

    Don’t get paranoid about your setup – yet.

    Keep on swimming. 

    Regards

    Tony

    #577885
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    Hi John,

    Your response calculation technique looks sound, otherwise you would note get a good match when applied to the reference measurement. It does seem though that something must have changed between the observations.  There are a few things to check

     I ran into a similar problem when I first attempted this type of exercise soon after I got the ALPY. In this case it was due to a combination of chromatic aberration and a shift in focus. I have attached the details.

    Combinations of chromatic aberration, atmospheric dispersion, focus and the position of the star on the slit can all conspire to give these sort of problems. Christian Buil has a particularly scary page on the problem somewhere. I will see if I can dig it out.  Having said that your C6 without focal reducer I would guess does not suffer from too much CA.

    Other things to watch in processing is to make sure your binning zone includes all the spectrum and the background zones are free from any spectrum data. If you use the optimised binning in ISIS try switching it off as I found the similar feature in VSpec could distort the spectrum under some circumstances.

    Cheers

    Robin 

    EDIT: here is the link I was looking for 

    http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/dispersion/atmo.htm

    #577892
    David Boyd
    Participant

    I’ve experienced the same problem as John with the same sequence of Miles spectra which Robin used. The response profiles calculated for each star give an excellent match with the Miles spectrum for that star but differ from star to star. All the spectra were taken over a period of an hour at an air mass of around 1.2 with no change to the equipment including focus and no obvious change in atmospheric conditions. However, I do live about 50 miles west of Heathrow and planes are flying over at high altitude all the time. I recently asked on the ARAS Forum if anyone have noticed changes in atmospheric response due to aircraft con trails but so far there has been no response. Possibly a bit of a long shot.

    I repeated the exercise a few days later and found the same variation, again different response profiles from star to star but no consistency with the first set. I now plan to experiment with varying the position of the guide star relative to the slit for the same star to see what effect this has. That will not be for a while as the forecast here is bad for several days.

    I’m using a LISA with a 23 micron slit on a C11 with a focal reducer operating at f/5.5. The slit size on the sky is 3.1″ which is a reasonable match to the seeing here. These is a noticeable fishtail on the spectra due to a combination of chromatic aberration in the LISA and the FR lens but I include the full fishtail that in the binning zone and do this with the same binning zone for all the stars. I use the optimal binning option in ISIS but switching that off has no effect on the derived response profiles. It is not a problem with smoothing the response profile as the effect is much larger than any variation that causes.

    Cheers, David

    #577893
    Andrew Smith
    Participant

    I think this highlights the difficulties of doing low resolution spectroscopy at ground level. I did see your post on the ARAS site David but could find no references to your question via various Google searches. It seems planes are not an issue for the professionals.

    I think in addition to the issues covered above if you want to get an accurate continuum you need to operate with a wide slit. That is one where the slit is significantly greater that the seeing disk so as to admit 99.99% + of the incident  star light. Thus your spectral resolution will be seeing/guiding limited. 

    Obviously, this will reduce your spectral resolution compared to a narrow slit where it defines the effective resolution (all else being equal). So you trade off photometric accuracy for resolution

    I think your science goals will dictate which is needed and if it is both then two set of observation may well be needed.

    Regards Andrew

    PS see here http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/alpy600/photometric_slit.htm

    #577894
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    Hi Andrew,

    A wide “photometric” slit is certainly needed for absolute flux calibration of course but in my experience, provided precautions are taken I have found it is possible to consistently get “reasonable” (+-10% say above 4000A) broad continuum relative flux calibration with my setup using a slit width the same order as the star PSF.

    (Except for the effect of changing focus on the original run and an example of the effects of scintillation on the latest run, the continuum errors my two runs using MILES stars I have documented here have been reasonably under control. You can also see some comparisons with professional spectra in what is perhaps a worse case scenario of faint targets using the modified ALPY 200 here.

    http://www.threehillsobservatory.co.uk/astro/spectroscopy_20.htm

    Comparisons between observers on the same object posted on the ARAS forum using the reference star techniques are also usually (but with admittedly some exceptions) consistent. 

    Perhaps my success though is due to the not particularly good guiding performance which effectively scans the centre of the star image across the slit.  

    Speaking to a professional recently, this sort of thing is tough for them too and their approach seemed to be to specifically measure the instrument response using standard stars only occasionally on photometric nights, removing the effect of the atmosphere by measuring at different air masses and then measure just the atmospheric extinction during the observing session, typically making one standard star measurement and correcting for air mass using an atmospheric model generated for their particular local conditions. This gets round the problem of having to find a reference star close to the target but does not address the problem of selective wavelength  sampling at the slit which may be what we are seeing here, though I believe that is yet to be proved. (David, perhaps you could try running with a wider 35um or even 50um slit to see if you get any improvement?).

    Buil’s ideas on spectrophotometric measurements using a combination of wide and narrow slits are probably worth thinking about in this context too, though adopting the 4 spectra measurement every time would reduce throughput significantly and might still give extinction errors with our fickle weather.

    http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/calibration2/absolute_calibration_en.htm

    Professionals though probably measure with the slit orientated at the parallactic angle and their CA and positioning and guiding errors are likely much lower than ours in general so perhaps selective sampling at the slit is not a big issue for them 

    Cheers

    Robin

    #577898
    john simpson
    Participant

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for the suggestions & references. I’ve only been able to look at switching off optimised binning so far, but it makes no difference to the results. On the way I checked out switching everything out [no offset, dark or flat field correction, just raw images with no calibration]. I looked at the consistency in pixel location for several absorption lines across all the images and the standard deviations seem reasonable to me.

    H.alpha=0.15px; H.beta=0.13px; H.gamma=0.11px; H.delta=0.16px; CaII=0.09px 

    I will look again at the data to see if the results show any obvious trends with time. However, more disturbing is that I have found what looks like a straylight problem with my set-up.  If I turn up brightness & contrast to the maximum in the calculated image means, there is a streak of light running parallel to the spectrum [in all the images, to varying degrees].  It is approx 3% of the peak of the signal and about 50 pixels away.  It wouldn’t have been summed in background removal, but not a good find. Am concentrating on this for the moment.

    #577899
    Andrew Smith
    Participant

    I don’t disagree with what you say Robin. If you have a technique that delivers the accuracy you need for your objectives e.g. you SN matching work then absolutely fine. The difficulty I have is when corrected spectra or even flux calibrated spectra are presented with no estimate of their errors in the continuum level. (I don’t think the BeSS standard requires it.)

    If you are using your own data I am a great believer in doing the minimum processing consistent with your goals to minimise added noise and potential artifacts. As we have commented before it is different when adding data to a general use database.

    Regards Andrew

    #577900
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    Hi Andrew,

    Yes I agree, this is an area which definitely needs more consideration. Even Pro-Am campaigns are rarely specified beyond a SNR figure and in most cases I suspect these sort of  systematic errors are much greater than the stochastic ones that SNR estimates, and much harder to quantify. These problems are not confined to amateur observations and databases either. For example the continuum of the ELODIE Vega spectrum originally incorporated into ISIS and which has probably used to correct hundreds of spectra in BeSS, is significantly in error.

     http://www.spectro-aras.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1369#p6205 

    and the Indo-US library spectra sometimes suggested as reference stars have a completely synthetic continuum based on Pickles

    http://www.spectro-aras.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1582

    Cheers

    Robin

    #577905
    john simpson
    Participant

    Thanks David, Andrew, for your comments & also the Buil reference . No condensation trails at my location, but it is loch-side surrounded by hills & conditions sometime change quickly. Once I’ve sorted out my stray-light problem, I will set an evening aside to track a couple of targets to see the extent to which my observations change over the period of time.

    #577913
    Paul Luckas
    Participant

    Hi John,

    Apologies for the lack of a useful Buil link, but you may also want to take a look at the AOD function in ISIS if you’re correcting your spectra using references taken at different altitudes, times and varying atmospheric conditions. I’ve used it for pro-am collaborations where high cadence spectra were required – in some cases using the same IR correction curve over several months. In recent times I’ve become less sure of the AOD tool (lacking the time to dig into the detail of aerosol theory among other things).

    Also – for the benefit of other newcomers, make sure you scale your miles comparison spectrum to the same range as your processed spectra when comparing the two. This appears to be the case with your plots John, but I just thought I’d mention it for others. In ISIS this is the “Normalize” button on the “Profile” page. The values applied to a comparison should match the ones you used for processing your spectra (specified on the “Settings” page) otherwise you’ll usually see a big offset.

    Cheers from the southern colony,

    Paul

    #577916
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    Hi Paul,

    Yes it is described in part 4 of the link I posted above.

    http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/calibration2/absolute_calibration_en.htm

    It seems to be what the pro I talked to was suggesting too. ie separating out the instrument response (which is presumed stable so measured infrequently) and extinction (measured on the night and adjusted for air mass using the AOD)

    Cheers

    Robin

    #577917
    Robin Leadbeater
    Participant

    I am wondering if using the AOD technique to do a second order extinction correction coupled with our standard reference star technique as a first order correction might be useful, reducing the need to chose the reference star precisely at the same elevation as the target. ie The MILES star need not then be at the same elevation, as the effect of the difference in air mass is calculated separately using a typical AOD. 

    Robin

    #577922
    Paul Luckas
    Participant

    Yes, I believe so Robin. In fact that’s exactly what I did for the aforementioned high cadence campaigns (gam2 Vel, zet Pup). I created a response correction, initially processing the reference star with AOD enabled. At the time I assumed it was necessary in order to compare to the (presumably corrected) published references when creating the IR profile.

    I must confess though, I’m no expert. Bernard H., provided much of the guidance during my initiation into these campaigns, having spent many more hours (years !) working with both the ISIS and the pros in question. I’m still [mostly] confused about how to use this feature, particularly when it comes to determining the correction value. As such I’ve reverted to back the conventional method of correction using a nearby standard for each session and leave AOD switched off.

    I do recall seeing some analysis (again, from Bernard) that showed only minor – almost insignificant – variations between the two methods – supporting the consistency of the ‘one IR’ method.

    Cheers,

    Paul

    #578017
    john simpson
    Participant

    Just to tidy up one point. Although the ALPY guide unit has just the single 23 micron slit, Shelyak offer a combined 23/200 micron photometric slit. In case anyone chooses to follow this route; I think I’ve solved my problems of inconsistency of continuum measurement by purchase of the latter – using the wide slit to determine the “instrument response”. It means taking 2 sets of measurements instead of 1 each time, but it seems worthwhile to overcome the variable effects of seeing, guiding errors, geometry & parallactic angle etc.  I’ve not tested the new set-up extensively yet, but initial checks on some of Robin’s stars in Taurus get me to +/- 1.5 – 2% error w.r.t. references over range 4000A & 7000A.  Also, had a quick look at HD35155 which is in the Miles library & used as ref. HD37507 [chose A5V in Pickles] – result in attached figure, still a bit of work to do, but seems promising.

    #578037
    Tony Rodda
    Participant

    I’d played around with AOD having gained an idea of what it might be from here…

    https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/GlobalMaps/view.php?d1=MODAL2_M_AER_OD

    Experimenting with varying target altitudes obviously give quite serious differences but using differing AOD values between 01 – 0.2 (the UK apparent variances) produced huge differences in the Aerosol component.  It seems to vary considerably from week to week (?).

    I’m not sure how ISIS applies this (?) or indeed whether UK values are accounted for.  (They certainly appear different from the guides given in ISIS).

    Or am I reading this wrong?

    Regards

    T

    #578039
    Andy Wilson
    Keymaster

    Hi Tony,

    In ISIS (and other amateur packages) this is usually taken account for in the single combined step for instrument and atmospheric response correction.

    The approach is take a spectrum of a standard A or B type star that has a spectrum in the Miles or similar database, and that it is at a similar altitude to your target. You use your spectrum along with the one from the Miles database to calculate a combined instrumental and atmospheric response correction. Where this won’t work is if you try to observe a target at a significantly different altitude, or if the sky conditions change. In that case you would need to take a fresh spectrum of an appropriate A or B type star.

    When removing individual atmospheric telluric lines then it will be necessary to take a more sophisticated approach. ISIS has another tool which can be used for that but often this step is not needed for the target spectra. I also find this only approximately works rather than giving a really good telluric removal.

    Cheers,

    Andy

    #578043
    Paul Luckas
    Participant

    Hi Andy, all,

    The response tool in ISIS divides the spectrum of our processed standard star by a Miles (or other) standard to create a response profile – which is then smoothed before applying to our target spectra during processing.

    Assuming the database standard has been corrected for atmosphere, shouldn’t we be doing the same (ie, invoking ‘auto atmosphere’ with an AOD value) when we pre-process our standard star? Otherwise, how does ISIS correctly correlate the atmosphere corrected Miles standard with our non-atmosphere corrected calibration star.

    What am I missing?

    Paul

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