Opening a Window of Discovery on the Dynamic Universe

All Weather Calibration of Wide Field Optical and NIR Surveys

Burke, David L. et al.
Saha, A.; Claver, J.; Axelrod, T.; Claver, C.; DePoy, D.; Ivezic, Z.; Jones, L.; Smith, R. Chris; Stubbs, C.W.
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Journal Articles
The Astronomical Journal
147 Issue 1
Page #: 
The science goals for ground-based large-area surveys, such as the Dark Energy Survey, Pan-STARRS, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, require calibration of broadband photometry that is stable in time and uniform over the sky to precisions of a percent or better. This performance will need to be achieved with data taken over the course of many years, and often in less than ideal conditions. This paper describes a strategy to achieve precise internal calibration of imaging survey data taken in less than "photometric" conditions, and reports results of an observational study of the techniques needed to implement this strategy. We find that images of celestial fields used in this case study with stellar densities ~1 arcmin−2 and taken through cloudless skies can be calibrated with relative precision ~0.5% (reproducibility). We report measurements of spatial structure functions of cloud absorption observed over a range of atmospheric conditions, and find it possible to achieve photometric measurements that are reproducible to 1% in images that were taken through cloud layers that transmit as little as 25% of the incident optical flux (1.5 magnitudes of extinction). We find, however, that photometric precision below 1% is impeded by the thinnest detectable cloud layers. We comment on implications of these results for the observing strategies of future surveys.
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Financial support for LSST comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Cooperative Agreement No. 1258333, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science under Contract No. DE-AC02-76SF00515, and private funding raised by the LSST Corporation. The NSF-funded LSST Project Office for construction was established as an operating center under management of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).  The DOE-funded effort to build the LSST camera is managed by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC).
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