July 23, 2020

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New STIS/CCD Python Defringing Tools Available in stistools

STIS CCD spectra taken at wavelengths >7000Å (the G750M and G750L modes) are impacted by “fringing”, a phenomenon caused by interference of multiple reflections between the two surfaces of the CCD in cases where the wavelength of the incident light is a small integer multiple of the distance between the two surfaces of the CCD (Goudfrooij et al. 1998).

A new suite of STIS CCD defringing tools is now available as part of the Version 1.4.1 Release of stistools (originally part of the Version 1.4.0 release, but the 1.4.1 version fixes some minor dependency issues). The defringe suite contains four tools: normspflat, prepspec, mkfringeflat, and defringe, which are Python ports of the original IRAF/PyRAF stis defringing tools. 

During testing, the STIS team found that the Python defringing tool suite has the potential to significantly increase the signal-to-noise ratio of an observation afflicted by IR fringing. By removing fringes in an observation of a standard white dwarf target with a well characterized model, we measured an increase in the signal-to-noise ratio from 11 to 73 in the 9000-9500Å wavelength range, shown in the figure below. Note that the improvement in SNR is inherently limited by the amount that the fringes themselves degrade the SNR of the observation, so the degree of SNR improvement will vary from observation to observation dependent on the severity of the fringes.

defringing has the potential to increase the SNR

To assist users in applying these tools to their fringed data, the STIS team has written a full set of accompanying documentation, including a step-by-step user’s guide and a walkthrough of two practical examples. This documentation is available on the stistools readthedocs site: https://stistools.readthedocs.io/en/latest/defringe.html

The defringing tools are available in the latest stistools AstroConda build, and available directly through the latest stistools GitHub release: https://github.com/spacetelescope/stistools/releases


Updated CALSPEC and Schedule for Implementation of Flux Calibration Changes for HST Instruments

Motivated by improvements in stellar atmosphere models, in March 2020 the CALSPEC models for the primary spectrophotometric standard stars were updated, and, in addition, a re-examination of Vega’s spectral flux resulted in a ~0.9% (grey) increase in its absolute flux.  The net result of the March 2020 changes is an increase in flux of up to 3% in the UV at wavelengths shorter than 0.15 microns, 2% increase between 0.15 and 0.4 microns, and an increase of 2% to 4% longward of 8 microns. From 0.4 to 8 microns, the change is <1.5%.  Details are described in Bohlin, Hubeny and Rauch 2020, AJ, 160, 21. This update is designated as CALSPECv11.

CALSPEC is the database of the composite spectra of stars used as flux standards for HST. Stellar atmosphere models are available for a large fraction of the stars that are recommended as standards. Spectral energy distributions (SEDs) are based on observations made with one or more space instruments.  CALSPECv11 updated the standard star models and the SEDs based on STIS, WFC3 and/or NICMOS spectroscopy (i.e. identified as _stis_, _stisnic_, _stiswfcnic_ ).  FOS and IUE spectra have not been updated.  CALSPECv11 files are available in the current CALSPEC directoryAll versions of CALSPEC models and SEDs are available in the full database at https://archive.stsci.edu/hlsps/reference-atlases/cdbs/calspec/.  Further CALSPEC information is available at stsci.edu/hst/instrumentation/reference-data-for-calibration-and-tools/astronomical-catalogs.

Each of the HST Instrument Teams will be updating flux calibrations and zeropoints over the next year, along with the concomitant throughput, sensitivity tables and photometry tables, as indicated below. 

The ACS Team is preparing updated, CALSPECv11-consistent, absolute flux calibration to be released in September 2020 for most of its filter complement.  Solar Blind Channel filters with  revised zeropoints will include F115LP, F122M, F125LP, F140LP, F150LP, and F165LP.  High Resolution Channel filters with revised zeropoints will include F220W, F250W, F330W, and F344N.  Combined-use Wide Field Channel and High Resolution Channel filters with revised zeropoints will include F435W, F475W, F502N, F555W, F550M, F606W, F625W, F658N, F660N, F775W, F814W, F892N, and F850LP.

The WFC3 team, to keep the flux calibration of its two channels consistent, will update the UVIS and IR channel absolute flux calibrations and zeropoints to CALSPECv11 simultaneously, and will provide time-dependent UVIS zeropoints. This work is expected to be completed by fall 2020.

The COS team will use the new CALSPEC 11 models to recalibrate its photometric throughput tables (FLUXTABs) and time dependent sensitivity tables (TDSTABs). The update will include regenerating the FLUXTABs and TDSTABs for both the FUV detector at all lifetime positions and the NUV detector. The COS team will be carrying out this work during 2021.

The STIS team will coordinate efforts to deliver imaging zeropoint updates in line with ACS and WFC3 using the new CALSPEC v11 models.  Updates will be made to the imaging photometric conversion tables (PHOTTABs) and image photometry keyword table (IMPHTTAB) by Winter 2020/2021.  In the coming year, work will be carried out to derive new sensitivity curves for the spectroscopic modes where changes to the CALSPEC models exceed relative or absolute flux accuracy requirements.  Updates for the most impacted modes will be prioritized with new spectroscopic PHOTTAB deliveries in Summer 2021.

Update Schedule by HST Instrument:

Instrument Modes CALSPEC version Expected Update Comment
ACS SBC V11 Sept 2020  
ACS HRC V11 Sept 2020  
ACS  WFC/HRC V11 Sept 2020  
WFC3 UVIS V11 Fall 2020 Includes time-dependence
WFC3 IR V11 Fall 2020  
COS FUV/NUV V11 End of 2021 FUV at all lifetime positions
STIS Imaging V11 Winter 2020/2021  
STIS Spectroscopic V11 Summer 2021  


For any questions concerning the flux calibrations, please contact the HST helpdesk (help@stsci.edu).



ACS: Advanced Camera for Surveys

COS: Cosmic Origins Spectrograph

FOS: Faint Object Spectrograph (retired HST instrument)

IUE: International Ultraviolet Explorer 

NICMOS: Near Infrared Camera and Multi object Spectrograph (inactive HST instrument)

STIS: Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph

WFC3: Wide Field Camera 3

SED: spectral energy distribution


Verifying Gaia Coordinates for Targets with Proper Motions in APT

The Astronomer’s Proposal Tool (APT) allows you to retrieve coordinates of your proposed target directly from SIMBAD, which has ingested Gaia Data Release 2 (DR2).  Starting in 2018, APT began retrieving coordinates with proper motion, specifically requesting an epoch of 2015.5, the native epoch of Gaia DR2.  There has been some confusion when comparing the coordinates APT fetches from SIMBAD with those listed on the SIMBAD website.  Both use Gaia references when applicable.  The Gaia DR2 positions and proper motions are given with equinox J2000 and epoch 2015.5.  The SIMBAD database then retroactively modified the positions and motions back to an epoch of 2000.  The coordinates retrieved from SIMBAD with APT use the original Gaia values for the 2015.5 epoch, and hence can be slightly different from those given on the SIMBAD website.  We recommend that you either (1) use the positions and motions (verifying them with an external source) retrieved from the APT without changing the values, units, or the epoch, or (2) enter all new values for the positions, motions, units, and epoch from the SIMBAD website.   It is important to double check that the coordinates are correct and consistent, by confirming that your target is in the cross hairs on the target confirmation chart.  For the small target acquisition apertures used by both the STIS and COS instruments, being slightly misaligned in the target confirmation chart could mean that your science target will not be in the field of view for the target acquisition.  On the zoomed-in chart the diameter of the open space within the cross hairs (i.e. the separation between the cross hairs) is about 4 to 5 arcsecs, comparable to the 5 arcsec field of view for a typical STIS target acquisition.  Per the policies of the telescope time review board (TTRB),  observations that fail because of incorrectly specified target coordinates are generally not approved for reobservation.  Contact hsthelp.stsci.edu with any additional questions or concerns.

Here is an example using the APT with a star with high proper motions, VB 8.  In Phase I of the APT, under “Fixed Targets”, “Fixed Target Resolver”, the APT found and uploaded the information for VB 8.  After converting the Phase I to Phase II in the APT and agreeing to copy the coordinates for the target, here is a screen shot of the APT window with the positions and proper motions with epoch of 2015.5.

APT window

Note that it gives SIMBAD as the reference frame, but on the SIMBAD website the positions and motions have been precessed to an epoch of 2000.  Also, the units for the proper motion are in sec of time/yr and arcsec/yr for the Right Ascension (RA) and Declination (dec) in the APT, whereas on the website they are in mas/yr for both directions.  Here is a screen shot of the SIMBAD website for VB 8.

The SIMBAD website for VB 8

The two working options are to either use the coordinates as retrieved by the APT, or enter from scratch the positions, proper motions, and epoch to what is shown in SIMBAD (or another reliable source).  We can double check the coordinates and proper motions by using the APT target confirmation charts.  These charts demonstrate the effects of proper motion when it is supplied for the target. You will see both the coordinates at the epoch you specified (orange circle) as well as the modified coordinates at the epoch of the DSS image used (pink cross hairs).  In this example the DSS Image Epoch is 1988.31. This allows you to double check that your supplied combination of coordinates and proper motion is correct and consistent because the object will appear in the cross hairs.  The target confirmation chart for using the coordinates as retrieved by APT shows the target in the cross hairs.  The Specified Epoch is 2015.5 and the RA, dec, and proper motions shown on the chart match those shown in the Phase II APT screen shot above.

Target confirmation chart using APT coordinates

By changing only the proper motions and epoch retrieved by the APT to SIMBAD’s website values, the target is no longer within the cross hairs.  The Specified Epoch is now 2000 and the proper motions (including units) match what is provided on the SIMBAD website.  The RA and dec are still the values that were retrieved by APT.

target confirmation chart using the proper motions and epoch from SIMBAD

Using the SIMBAD’s website coordinates, motions, and epoch, the target confirmation chart again shows the target within the cross hairs.

The target confirmation chart using all data from SIMBAD


HST Help Desk 

Please contact the HST Help Desk with any questions.