Traditional color and airmass corrections can typically achieve ~0.02 mag precision in photometric observing conditions.
A major limiting factor is the variability in atmospheric throughput, which changes on timescales of less than a night.
We present preliminary results for a system to monitor the throughput of the atmosphere, which should enable
photometric precision when coupled to more traditional techniques of less than 1% in photometric conditions. The
system, aTmCam, consists of a set of imagers each with a narrow-band filter that monitors the brightness of suitable
standard stars. Each narrowband filter is selected to monitor a different wavelength region of the atmospheric
transmission, including regions dominated by the precipitable water, aerosol optical depth, etc. We have built a
prototype system to test the notion that an atmospheric model derived from a few color indices measurements can be an
accurate representation of the true atmospheric transmission. We have measured the atmospheric transmission with both
narrowband photometric measurements and spectroscopic measurements; we show that the narrowband imaging
approach can predict the changes in the throughput of the atmosphere to better than ~10% across a broad wavelength
range, so as to achieve photometric precision less than 0.01 mag.
We present an innovative method for photometric calibration of massive survey data that will be applied to the
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). LSST will be a wide-field ground-based system designed to obtain
imaging data in six broad photometric bands (ugrizy, 320-1050 nm). Each sky position will be observed multiple
times, with about a hundred or more observations per band collected over the main survey area (20,000 sq.deg.)
during the anticipated 10 years of operations. Photometric zeropoints are required to be stable in time to 0.5%
(rms), and uniform across the survey area to better than 1% (rms). The large number of measurements of
each object taken during the survey allows identification of isolated non-variable sources, and forms the basis
for LSST's global self-calibration method. Inspired by SDSS's uber-calibration procedure, the self-calibration
determines zeropoints by requiring that repeated measurements of non-variable stars must be self-consistent when
corrected for variations in atmospheric and instrumental bandpass shapes. This requirement constrains both the
instrument throughput and atmospheric extinction. The atmospheric and instrumental bandpass shapes will
be explicitly measured using auxiliary instrumentation. We describe the algorithm used, with special emphasis
both on the challenges of controlling systematic errors, and how such an approach interacts with the design of
the survey, and discuss ongoing simulations of its performance.
The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will continuously image the entire sky visible from Cerro Pachon
in northern Chile every 3-4 nights throughout the year. The LSST will provide data for a broad range of science
investigations that require better than 1% photometric precision across the sky (repeatability and uniformity)
and a similar accuracy of measured broadband color. The fast and persistent cadence of the LSST survey
will significantly improve the temporal sampling rate with which celestial events and motions are tracked. To
achieve these goals, and to optimally utilize the observing calendar, it will be necessary to obtain excellent
photometric calibration of data taken over a wide range of observing conditions - even those not normally
considered "photometric". To achieve this it will be necessary to routinely and accurately measure the full
optical passband that includes the atmosphere as well as the instrumental telescope and camera system. The
LSST mountain facility will include a new monochromatic dome illumination projector system to measure the
detailed wavelength dependence of the instrumental passband for each channel in the system. The facility will
also include an auxiliary spectroscopic telescope dedicated to measurement of atmospheric transparency at all
locations in the sky during LSST observing. In this paper, we describe these systems and present laboratory
and observational data that illustrate their performance.
The LSST camera is a wide-field optical (0.35-1um) imager designed to provide a 3.5 degree FOV with better than 0.2 arcsecond sampling. The detector format will be a circular mosaic providing approximately 3.2 Gigapixels per image. The camera includes a filter mechanism and, shuttering capability. It is positioned in the middle of the telescope where cross-sectional area is constrained by optical vignetting and heat dissipation must be controlled to limit thermal gradients in the optical beam. The fast, f/1.2 beam will require tight tolerances on the focal plane mechanical assembly.
The focal plane array operates at a temperature of approximately -100°C to achieve desired detector performance. The focal plane array is contained within an evacuated cryostat, which incorporates detector front-end electronics and thermal control. The cryostat lens serves as an entrance window and vacuum seal for the cryostat. Similarly, the camera body lens serves as an entrance window and gas seal for the camera housing, which is filled with a suitable gas to provide the operating environment for the shutter and filter change mechanisms. The filter carousel can accommodate 5 filters, each 75 cm in diameter, for rapid exchange without external intervention.
Science studies made by the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will reach systematic limits in nearly all cases. Requirements for accurate photometric measurements are particularly challenging. Advantage will be taken of the rapid cadence and pace of the LSST survey to use celestial sources to monitor stability and uniformity of photometric data. A new technique using a tunable laser is being developed to calibrate the wavelength dependence of the total telescope and camera system throughput. Spectroscopic measurements of atmospheric extinction and emission will be made continuously to allow the broad-band optical flux observed in the instrument to be corrected to flux at the top of the atmosphere. Calibrations with celestial sources will be compared to instrumental and atmospheric calibrations.