Vol 21, No 4

The estimate of sensitivity for large infrared telescopes based on measured sky brightness and atmospheric extinction

Zhi-Jun Zhao, Hai-Jing Zhou, Yu-Chen Zhang, Yun Ling, Fang-Yu Xu


Abstract In order to evaluate the ground-based infrared telescope sensitivity affected by the noise from the atmosphere, instruments and detectors, we construct a sensitivity model that can calculate limiting magnitudes and signal-to-noise ratio (S/N). The model is tested with tentative measurements of M′-band sky brightness and atmospheric extinction obtained at the Ali and Daocheng sites. We find that the noise caused by an excellent scientific detector and instruments at −135°C can be ignored compared to the M′-band sky background noise. Thus, when S/N = 3 and total exposure time is 1 second for 10 m telescopes, the magnitude limited by the atmosphere is 13.01m at Ali and 12.96m at Daocheng. Even under lessthan-ideal circumstances, i.e., the readout noise of a deep cryogenic detector is less than 200 e− and the instruments are cooled to below −87.2°C, the above magnitudes decrease by 0.056m at most. Therefore, according to observational requirements with a large telescope in a given infrared band, astronomers can use this sensitivity model as a tool for guiding site surveys, detector selection and instrumental thermal-control.


Keywords methods: miscellaneous — atmospheric effects — telescopes — site testing — instrumentation: detectors — instrumentation: miscellaneous

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