|Space Telescope Science Institute|
In the preceding chapters, we provided an overview of the scientific capabilities of NICMOS and the basic layout and operation of the instrument. Subsequent chapters will provide detailed information about the performance and operation of the instrument. In this chapter, we briefly describe the conceptual steps which need to be taken when designing a NICMOS observing proposal. The purpose of this description is to refer proposers to the relevant Chapters across the Handbook. The basic sequence of steps in defining a NICMOS observation are shown in a flow diagram in Figure 3.1, and are:
• Identify the science requirements and select the basic NICMOS configuration to support those requirements (e.g., imaging, polarimetry, coronagraphy). Select the appropriate camera, NIC1, NIC2 or NIC3 depending on needs and field of view. Please refer to the detailed accounts given in Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.
• Select the wavelength region of interest and determine if the observations will be Background or Read-Noise limited using the Exposure Time Calculator, which is available on the STScI NICMOS Web page (see also Chapter 9 and ).
• Estimate the exposure time to achieve the required signal to noise ratio and check feasibility (i.e., saturation limits). The Exposure Time Calculator (ETC) should be used to determine exposure time requirements and assess whether the exposure is close to the brightness and dynamic range limitations of the detectors (see Chapter 9).
• If necessary, a chop and dither pattern should be chosen for better spatial sampling, to measure the background or to enable mapping, and to mitigate bad pixels. See .
• If coronagraphic observations are proposed, additional target acquisition exposures will be required to center the target in the aperture to the accuracy required for the scientific goal (e.g., the proposer may wish to center the nucleus of a galaxy in a crowded field behind the coronagraphic spot). The target acquisition overheads must be included in the accounting of orbits.
• Calculate the total number of orbits required, taking into account the overheads. In this, the final step, all the exposures (science and non-science, alike) are combined into orbits, using tabulated overheads, and the total number of orbits required are computed. Chapter 10 should be used for performing this step.Figure 3.1: Specifying a NICMOS Observation