Photometric calibrations for 21st century science

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The answers to fundamental science questions in astrophysics, ranging from the history of the expansion of the universe to the sizes of nearby stars, hinge on our ability to make precise measurements of diverse astronomical objects. As our knowledge of the underlying physics of objects improves along with advances in detectors and instrumentation, the limits on our capability to extract science from measurements is set, not by our lack of understanding of the nature of these objects, but rather by the most mundane of all issues: the precision with which we can calibrate observations in physical units. In principle, photometric ... continued below

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8 pages

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Kent, Stephen; Kaiser, Mary Elizabeth; Deustua, Susana E.; Smith, J. Allyn; Adelman, Saul; Allam, Sahar S. et al. February 1, 2009.

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Description

The answers to fundamental science questions in astrophysics, ranging from the history of the expansion of the universe to the sizes of nearby stars, hinge on our ability to make precise measurements of diverse astronomical objects. As our knowledge of the underlying physics of objects improves along with advances in detectors and instrumentation, the limits on our capability to extract science from measurements is set, not by our lack of understanding of the nature of these objects, but rather by the most mundane of all issues: the precision with which we can calibrate observations in physical units. In principle, photometric calibration is a solved problem - laboratory reference standards such as blackbody furnaces achieve precisions well in excess of those needed for astrophysics. In practice, however, transferring the calibration from these laboratory standards to astronomical objects of interest is far from trivial - the transfer must reach outside the atmosphere, extend over 4{pi} steradians of sky, cover a wide range of wavelengths, and span an enormous dynamic range in intensity. Virtually all spectrophotometric observations today are calibrated against one or more stellar reference sources, such as Vega, which are themselves tied back to laboratory standards in a variety of ways. This system's accuracy is not uniform. Selected regions of the electromagnetic spectrum are calibrated extremely well, but discontinuities of a few percent still exist, e.g., between the optical and infrared. Independently, model stellar atmospheres are used to calibrate the spectra of selected white dwarf stars, e.g. the HST system, but the ultimate accuracy of this system should be verified against laboratory sources. Our traditional standard star systems, while sufficient until now, need to be improved and extended in order to serve future astrophysics experiments. This white paper calls for a program to improve upon and expand the current networks of spectrophotometrically calibrated stars to provide precise calibration with an accuracy of equal to and better than 1% in the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared portions of the spectrum, with excellent sky coverage and large dynamic range.

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8 pages

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  • Report No.: FERMILAB-FN-0830-CD
  • Grant Number: AC02-07CH11359
  • DOI: 10.2172/951353 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 951353
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc934942

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  • February 1, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • July 26, 2017, 9:49 a.m.

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Kent, Stephen; Kaiser, Mary Elizabeth; Deustua, Susana E.; Smith, J. Allyn; Adelman, Saul; Allam, Sahar S. et al. Photometric calibrations for 21st century science, report, February 1, 2009; Batavia, Illinois. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc934942/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.