Enabling precision calibration of massively multiplexed spectroscopic surveys Grant uri icon


  • Modern astronomy has taught us much about the physics that governs the Universe. Recently, many discoveries have been made by inspecting images produced by surveys that collect images of large areas of the nighttime sky. The next step is to study many of the objects discovered in those images in more detail using spectroscopy. Several such facilities are currently being planned, each able to collect thousands of such spectra of astrophysical objects simultaneously. A key challenge for such work is to ensure that the spectra are well calibrated so that this data can be interpreted accurately. In this project the proposed next-generation Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) facility is used as a baseline to develop the required calibration and measurement techniques. This work will enable precision scientific spectroscopic measurements to be made using MSE and other similar facilities. The work will engage one graduate student and many undergraduates, providing them with significant STEM educational opportunities. Massively multiplexed spectroscopic facilities on large aperture telescopes represent the future of ground-based optical astronomy. In the era of the Vera Rubin Observatory and other wide-field imaging surveys, the follow-up spectroscopic study of vast numbers of objects with brightness comparable to or fainter than the sky background is required. In order for these studies to be executed efficiently, thousands of spectra per pointing must be acquired, a feat that can be accomplished using fiber-fed spectroscopic instruments. Careful calibration will be needed to disentangle the signal generated by the target of interest from the background noise that is the result of sky signal and scattered light induced by the instrumentation. This project plans to fully assess these noise sources and develop a procedure to minimize the limitations they induce through careful measurement of the relevant properties of the fibers. Results of the proposed study will be applicable to all future massively multiplexed spectroscopic instruments, thus enabling the science programs of multiple next-generation facilities. The Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer is a direct application for this work. The project will support one graduate student and many undergraduates thus providing significant training in instrumentation development and engineering techniques. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria

date/time interval

  • 2020 - 2023