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Mid-IR Observing Strategies

On this page we describe the principal observing and calibration issues that users of Gemini's mid-IR instruments should consider when planning their programs and writing their proposals. We recommend that proposers weigh the importance of each issue to their program's scientific goals and formulate their observing plans accordingly. For Michelle and T-ReCS, the principal concerns are the relatively small field of view, the need to chop and nod, and the restricted chopping amplitude. A secondary concern is astrometric accuracy.

Introduction to Ground-based Mid-IR Observing

Compared to observing from space platforms such as Spitzer, observing at mid-IR wavelengths from large ground-based telescopes on good sites brings two principal benefits. First the image quality from such sites is usually diffraction limited (thus scaling with the telescope diameter) and therefore on Gemini, for example, is higher by more than an order of magnitude than on mid-IR space telescopes such as Spitzer.

Tables of transmission and S/N in various filters

                   ON MAUNA KEA AND CERRO PACHO
           (S/N est. includes 4% telescope + instrument emissivity)

                                     MAUNA KEA

                Transmission                    S/N (norm to secz=1,1mm H2O)
        1.0mm   1.6mm   3.0mm   5.0mm   H2O     1.0mm   1.6mm   3.0mm  5.0mm


Exposure times

Table 1 below shows the time taken for the background (sky + telescope) to reach 50% full-well capacity of the NIRI Aladdin array in spectroscopy mode. Table 2 shows the brightness of a stellar source (in magnitudes) that will fill 80% of the well of a NIRI array pixel in a one-second exposure (0.2 sec exposure at M).


Michelle Component

Michelle iterator

Michelle Iterator

Visualisation in the Position Editor and selection of guide stars

Observation Preparation

This section explains how to configure ALTAIR in the Observing Tool and how to specify the AO and tip/tilt star in the "Target Component" when ALTAIR is being used.