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Observatory Support

ETC News and Known Issues

Be sure to read the Release Notes for new features and resolved issues in the ETC 22.1.2 release.


  • Browser Bug

    Some web browsers have a bug in which using the Back button causes ETC form values to reset. More information can be found in the User's Guide.

  • ETC Calculation Dates

    ETC Calculations are currently performed with MJD = 56747.5 (March 31, 2014)

  • Contact the Helpdesk for access to Cycle 18 or prior calculations

    The Cycle 17 and Cycle 18 Java ETC is no longer available. Instead old calculation results from Cycles 17 and 18 have been archived. Contact the STScI Helpdesk at in order to retrieve any old calculations necessary.

Using the ETC with archival data

There are a number of issues involved in using the ETC to support archival research. In particular,

  • The ETC is optimized for projected instrument sensitivity and status during the upcoming observing cycle, and will thus supply incorrect answers for past instrument performance.
  • The default SYNPHOT and pysynphot data files — graph (TMG), component (TMC), and thermal (TMT – for NICMOS and WFC3) tables are also optimized for projected use, and will thus also supply incorrect answers for past instrument performance.
  • ETC calculations are not required to have the same standard of reliability and absolute accuracy with respect to sensitivity as instrument calibration files and pipelines. In particular, for instruments with health and safety concerns the ETC provides a conservative estimate.

The following issues remain unresolved in 22.2:


  • ACS Spectroscopic Webpage does not have Javascript validation of obswave or displayed wavelength ranges for each filter

    On the ACS spectroscopic webpage, it is possible to select a wavelength outside of the passband of the selected filter, and instead of a warning appearing that the selected wavelength is outside the passband, the form will instead produce an error when submitted.

  • ACS results with CLEAR do not include known effects of PSF degradation

    Filterless ACS observations (obtained by setting both filters to "CLEAR") are available but not supported by ACS calibration programs. Such observations are out of focus, resulting in a broader PSF (less encircled energy) than otherwise expected, as documented in ACS ISR 2003-03. This PSF degradation is not included in the ETC calculations, and the ETC will thus tend to overestimate SNR in those cases.


  • Dark Current Column Header in ETC Tabular results is labeled as per-pixel, but values are per-resel

    As such, the dark current reported in the ETC tabular results are high by a factor of 6. Both the information at the top of the results page and the information in the plots provided are correct (this issue affects only the ETC tabular results).

  • Count rate calculations for extended targets

    All ETC versions including this one have been affected by a bug in the count rate calculation for spectroscopic observations of extended targets. The diameter of the target input by the user is incorrectly ignored in the cross-dispersion direction, and the aperture size (2.5") is used instead. As a result, the reported extracted target rate is overestimated by a factor 2.5/target diameter for target diameters smaller than 2.5". Therefore the SNR will be overestimated, and the time will be underestimated.


  • NICMOS ETC No Longer Available

    The NICMOS ETC is no longer available for new calculations. Given the fact that NICMOS is not being offered for use in the current proposal cycles, and due to the substantial maintenance and development costs in a constrained budgetary environment, the decision was taken to discontinue support for the NICMOS ETC.

    Users can still retrieve NICMOS ETC results from Cycles 17 and 18 by contacting the STScI Help Desk.

    In order to (for example) calculate the effective wavelengths of NICMOS filters, pysynphot may be used, provided that the Throughput Tables have been downloaded. For example, to calculate the effective wavelength of the NICMOS f222m filter,

    >>> import pysynphot as S
    >>> sp=S.FileSpectrum(’$PYSYN_CDBS/calspec/gd71_stisnic_003.fits’)
    >>> bp=S.ObsBandpass(‘nicmos,3,f222m’)
    >>> obs=S.Observation(sp,bp)
    >>> obs.efflam()
    For assistance with pysynphot, please contact the helpdesk.


  • Option for in-band normalization

    The option for in-band normalization currently is not supported for certain STIS spectroscopic slits, in particular for slits that have numbers followed by one or more letters (i.e. 0.2x0.6). The ETC will inform the user that this is an unsupported option.


  • WFC3IR Imaging has a limited range of values for ‘Percentage of all light’

    In the WFC3 IR Imaging ETC with default settings, when ‘User a circular region containing X percent of total light’ is chosen, there is not sufficient data to handle values less than 50% or greater than 99.9%. Selecting such values will result in a ‘Value out of range’ error.

  • Default Aperture for WFC3 (UVIS and IR) is 0.4 arcseconds

    Please note that the default aperture radius for WFC3 is 0.4 arcsec (90% of encircled energy). For 80% of encircled energy, use an aperture with radius 0.2 arcsec, comparable to the ACS default.

Read the Release Notes for ETC 22.2