VIRCAM Exposure Time Calculator
The HTML/Java based interface allows to set the simulation parameters and examine interactively the model generated graphs. The ETC programs allow easy comparison of the different options relevant to an observing program, including target information, instrument configuration, variable atmospheric conditions and observing parameters. Being maintained on the ESO Web servers, the ETCs are regularly updated to reflect the known performance of ESO instruments.
The exposure time calculator consists of two pages.
Input page: The observation parameters page presents the entry fields and widgets for the target information, expected atmospheric conditions, instrument configuration, observation parameters such as exposure time or signal-to-noise, and results selection. An "Apply" button submits the parameters to the model executed on the ESO Web server.
Output page: The results page presents the computed results, including number of counts for the object and the sky, signal-to-noise ratios, instrument efficiencies, etc. The optional graphs are displayed in several formats. In addition a summary of the input parameters is appended to the result page.
Note: These tools are only provided for technical assessment of observation feasibility. Variations of the atmospheric conditions can strongly affect the required observation time. Calculated exposure time do not take into account instrument and telescope overheads. Users are advised to exert caution in the interpretation of the results and to report any result which may be suspected to be inconsistent.
The exposure time calculator models the observation chain which
includes the target spectral distribution, atmosphere parameters, instrument configuration,
and detector setup.
An instrument description for VISTA is available on
the instrument page.
The following options are available to describe the input spectrum of the target.
The flux density is constant at all wavelengths (F(λ) = const.) The flux density level is determined from the specified object magnitude.
The target model can be defined by a spectral type. It uses a template spectrum, which is scaled to the provided magnitude and filter. The spectral type is used to make the color correction.
The target model is a blackbody defined by its temperature, expressed in Kelvin. The intensity distribution is scaled to the object magnitude.
Enter the V (650 nm), Z (880 nm), Y (1030 nm), J (1250 nm) ,
H (1650 nm), or K (2160 nm) magnitude, ideally
closest in wavelength to the selected filter.
NOTE! For the Uniform and Template Spectra, currently the Target Magnitude can ONLY be given in the same band as the Filter.
Zero points used for conversion into photon fluxes are taken from the following references: Wilson, 1972, ApJ, 177, 533, and from Hewett et al., 2006, MNRAS, 367, 454.
The input spectrum is a single emission line. It is an analytic Gaussian, centered on the Wavelength parameter, defined by its total Flux and full-width at half-maximum FWHM. Line flux is given in 10-16 erg.cm-2.s-1.
NB: When requesting a single line as input spectrum, the magnitude parameter is not taken into account. Only the line flux will be used to determine the signal magnitude.
NB: The FWHM of a single line is limited by the sampling. If the requested FWHM is too narrow, it will be replaced by the minimum supported value, and a warning will be issued in the beginning of the result page.
Point Source are sources whose spatial extend on the sky is much less than the seeing diameter. The signal to noise is computed over a circular area with diameter twice the effective seeing at the wavelength of observation. The effective seeing is given by the following formula: eff_seeing(seeing(V), λ) = seeing(V)*(λ/500nm)-1/5, where fwhm_V is the given FWHM seeing at 500nm (V-band).
For extended sources, the magnitude is given per square arcsecond. The reference area for the signal-to-noise calculation can either be circular with the specified angular diameter, or it can be set to one detector pixel.
The airmass at which the observation is performed. In the current simple sky model, the only effect of the airmass parameter is the reduction of source flux. The airmass can be computed from the ESO Sky Calendar Tool page.
The seeing parameter is given in arcseconds and corresponds to the full-width at half-maximum (FWHM) of the seeing disk in the V band. In the computation of the signal-to-noise it is scaled to seeing expected in the observing band by using the following formula: eff_seeing(seeing(V), λ) = seeing(V)*(λ/500nm)-1/5
Choosing the instrument filter determines for which band the exposure time will be computed. For information about the filters (incl. transmission curves), please refer to the Instrument Description and the User Manual.
The average pixel scale is 0.34 arcsec/pixel.The read-out mode is Double Correlated. The read-out noise varies from detector to detector, but on average it is 23 electrons.
The DIT (Detector on-chip integration time per single shot in seconds) is needed as input for all of the following cases:
Specify an exposure time per pixel,
Specify a signal-to-noise ratio to be achieved,
Specify an observing strategy.
The observing strategy constitutes of:
In all cases, the exposure time for each exposure is DIT*Ndit, with the specified DIT. However, the VIRCAM focal plane is not fully covered with detectors and therefore some larger offsets (pawprint offsets) are used to obtain a tile, an image with more uniform coverage of the focal plane. The total exposure time per pixel after taking NxM microstep exposures + Njitter dithered exposures + Npaw pawprint offsets + Nexp exposure loops depends on the Npaw parameter value. In case one chooses Npaw=1, then each pixel will be exposed once for each pawprint offset and the total exposure time per pixel will be given by Ndit*Nexp*NxM*Njitter. The Npaw=3 (Tile3 patterns) result in vertical stripes, where the pixels along these vertical stripes are exposed at least twice (except for the edges of the tile). In case of Npaw=6 each pixel in a final tile will be exposed at least twice (except for the edges of the tile). Therefore most of the pixels in a tile covered with Npaw=3 and Npaw=6 will have total exposure time per pixel defined by Ndit*Nexp*NxM*Njitter*2. For more details please see the VISTA User manual.
The output form will give you estimates for SNR or Exposure Time, together with output graphs you selected.Do not confuse exposure time (which is the total exposure time per pixel used for calculation of S/N) and total observation time, the latter being a sum of exposure time, including additional offset exposures and overheads in the telescope and instrument. Please consult the user manuals for guidance on the choice of the integration parameters.
The input flux distribution is displayed in units of photons/cm2/s/A
The total integrated counts contribution from the object per pixel as a function of wavelength, in e-/pixel/DIT.
The sky transmission in percent as a function of wavelength.
This option will display a curve showing the total efficiency in percent of the system.
The S/N as a function of Exposure Time