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Paper: SkyProbe: Real-Time Precision Monitoring in the Optical of the Absolute Atmospheric Absorption on the Telescope Science and Calibration Fields
Volume: 503, Calibrating Large Surveys and Future Facilities
Page: 233
Authors: Cuillandre, J.-C.; Magnier, E.; Sabin, D.; Mahoney, B.
Abstract: Mauna Kea is known for its pristine seeing conditions but sky transparency can be an issue for science operations since at least 25% of the observable (i.e. open dome) nights are not photometric, an effect mostly due to high-altitude cirrus. Since 2001, the original single channel SkyProbe mounted in parallel on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) has gathered one V-band exposure every minute during each observing night using a small CCD camera offering 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' Tycho catalog at high galactic latitudes (and up to 600 stars at low galactic latitudes). The measurement of the true atmospheric absorption is achieved within 2%, a key advantage over all-sky direct thermal infrared imaging detection of clouds. The absolute measurement of the true atmospheric absorption by clouds and particulates affecting the data being gathered by the telescope's main science instrument has proven crucial for decision making in the CFHT queued service observing (QSO) representing today all of the telescope time. Also, science exposures taken in non-photometric conditions are automatically registered for a new observation at a later date at 1/10th of the original exposure time in photometric conditions to ensure a proper final absolute photometric calibration. Photometric standards are observed only when conditions are reported as being perfectly stable by SkyProbe. The more recent dual color system (simultaneous B & V bands) will offer a better characterization of the sky properties above Mauna Kea and should enable a better detection of the thinnest cirrus (absorption down to 0.01 mag., or 1%).
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