Abstract Details

Title: SkyProbe, monitoring the absolute atmospheric transmission in the optical

Authors: Jean-charles Cuillandre, Eugene Magnier, Billy Mahoney

Institute/Affiliation: Canada France Hawaii Telescope

Abstract Type: talk

Abstract Information:

Mauna Kea is known for its pristine seeing conditions, but sky transparency can be an issue for science operations since 25% of the night are not photometric, mostly due to high-altitude cirrus. Since 2001, the original single-channel SkyProbe has gathered one exposure every minute during each observing night using a small CCD camera with a very wide field of view (35 sq. deg.) encompassing the region pointed by the telescope for science operations, and exposures long enough (40 seconds) to capture at least 100 stars of Hipparcos\' Tychos catalog at high galactic latitudes (and up to 600 stars at low galactic latitudes). A key advantage of SkyProbe over direct thermal infrared imaging detection of clouds, is that it allows an accurate absolute measurement, within 5%, of the true atmospheric absorption by clouds affecting the data being gathered by the telescope\'s main science instrument. This system has proven crucial for decision making in the CFHT queued service observing (QSO), representing today 80% of the telescope time: science exposures taken in non-photometric conditions are automatically registered for being re-observed later on (at 1/10th of the original exposure time per pointing in the observed filters) to ensure a proper final absolute photometric calibration. The new dual color system (simultaneous B&V bands) will allow a better characterization of the sky properties atop Mauna Kea and will enable a better detection of the thinner cirrus (absorption down to 0.02 mag., i.e. 2%). SkyProbe is operated within the Elixir pipeline, a collection of tools used for handling the CFHT CCD mosaics (CFH12K and MegaCam), from data pre-processing to astrometric and photometric calibration.