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ACIS-S setup with LETG

Checking your LETG/ACIS-S setup parameters

Please note that dynamic aimpoint adjustments based on predictive thermal modeling were adopted beginning for Observing Cycle 18 (fall 2016). As a result, recommended pointing offsets will not change from year to year as they have in the past, as setting Yoffset, Zoffset, and SIM to zero will always put the source near (CHIPX,CHIPY)=210,520 on ACIS-S3. Observers, however, will still need to consider several options for subarrays and Yoffset depending on the specific goals of their observations.

This page is intended to aid proposers and observers as they select instrumental parameters for LETG/ACIS-S observations, specifically with regard to pointing offsets and subarray configurations. Most of the information presented here is also in the Proposer's Observatory Guide (see especially Table 9.3 and section 9.4.2/Offset Pointing). The additional contributions of this page are specific subarray configurations and links to the Spectrum Visualization Tool.


Default SIM Offset

The default for the SIM Offset is now 0 (prior to 2016 it was -8 mm) in order to maximize effective area at energies below ~1 keV. With this SIM Offset value the spectrum will fall near the middle of the CCD array, around row CHIPY=520.

Why was this change made?

Default Z-Offset

Because of the changing thermal environment of the telescope, the aimpoint has drifted over time. For many years, observers wishing to make observations at the best focus had to specify small offsets in Y and/or Z pointing. This is no longer be necessary as aimpoint position modeling results are automatically incorporated into mission planning software. The default Z-offset is therefore 0.

Choosing Y-Offset

For many years, most LETG/ACIS-S observations used a Y-offset of roughly 1.5' in order to place the important He-like O lines and the O-K absorption edge on the S3 chip; as seen in the figure below, the Backside-Illuminated (BI) chips, S1 and S3, have much higher QE at low energies than the Front-Illuminated (FI) chips. Over the years, as the aimpoint drifted and aimpoint errors increased, the recommended Y-offset tended to decrease.

To address these issues and simplify observation planning, the aimpoint was recently redefined so that Yoffset=0 always corresponds to chipx=210, and any aimpoint drift is accounted for during observation planning. A predictive thermal model has also been implemented (beginning Sep 2016) to reduce pointing errors. The current recommendation for most LETG/ACIS observations is Y-offset=1.2', which will place the major Oxygen features on S3 while ensuring that 0th order does not get too close to the S2/S3 gap.

The Spectrum Visualization Tool displays where spectral features fall on the ACIS-S detector as a function of Y-offset and source redshift. Positions are only approximate, however, because of aimpoint scatter, which can be up to ±11" (0.18') in Y (along CHIPX). One arcminute of Y-offset corresponds to a shift of 3.36 Å. When choosing an offset, observers should keep several margins in mind:

The following Y-offsets are of particular interest.
Figure 1: LETGS 1st order effective area (EA) with ACIS-S and HRC-S; lower panel shows low-EA regions in more detail. The effects of dither and ACIS bad columns are included. Light grey lines mark ACIS chip boundaries, and HRC plate gaps appear near -53 and +65 Å. ACIS curve is for Y-offset=+1.0' and HRC curve is for Y-offset=0'. ACIS EAs are for late 2016.     Figure 2: Effective areas at different ACIS rows, normalized to row 180. Contaminant on the UV/Ion Shield is thinnest in the middle of the array, yielding higher X-ray transmission and EA. As of late 2015, it is recommended that observations use SIM Offset of 0 with Zoffset=0, which will place spectra near the array center where effective area is highest.

ACIS Subarrays and Optional Chips

Very few LETG/ACIS observations use the full ACIS-S array, which has 1024 rows and takes 3.2 seconds to read out. Using a subarray and/or fewer than 6 chips allows a faster readout (shorter frametime) and thus produces less pileup in 0th order and the dispersed spectrum.

From Figure 1 one can see that S0 and S5 are useless for detecting 1st-order photons, although they may be useful for collecting higher order spectra in some cases. The S4 chip is also unlikely to be useful. Because of increasingly stringent ACIS thermal requirements, the S0 and S5 chips should be turned off unless there is a good reason for their use. Note that chips can be marked as "Optional", in which case they will be only be turned on if Mission Planning schedulers determine that thermal constraints will not be violated.

The LETG/ACIS background is weak enough that observers often don't bother with background subtraction. In this case, a subarray as small as 128 rows can be used. If background subtraction is to be used, a subarray of at least 160 pixels is needed; 88 pixels for the default background regions which extend to 1.06 mm on either side of the spectrum, 32 pixels for dithering, and 40 pixels for Z pointing errors of up to ±10". Alternatively, users may reprocess their data by specifying narrower background regions in tg_extract.

To summarize, 3 or 4 chips will suffice for most observers. A 128-row subarray should be OK but there will be little room for background regions. If you plan to use the standard background regions you should chose at least 160 rows, although custom background regions can be specified to use whatever area is available. The tables below list subarray parameters for the traditional 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 subarrays, and for optimized subarrays that maximize the number of rows for a given frametime. SIM Offset=0 and Z-Offset=0 are assumed, with the spectrum centered in the cross-dispersion direction on row 520 (very near the center of the ACIS-S array).

Optimized subarrays (maximizing rows for a given frametime)
CCDs 3 chips 4 chips
Rows    303       267       232       196       160       283       247       211       175       139   
Start 368 386 404 422 440 378 396 414 432 450
FrameTime   1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6

CCDs 5 chips 6 chips
Rows    263       226       190       153       242       205       169       132   
Start 388 407 425 443 399 417 435 454
FrameTime   1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7

Traditional subarrays
CCDs 3 chips 4 chips 5 chips 6 chips
Subarray ½ ¼ ½ ¼ ½ ¼ ½ ¼
FrameTime   1.6 0.9 0.6 1.7 1.0 0.6 1.7 1.0 0.7 1.8 1.1 0.7

Frametime for m active CCDs, using n rows starting with row q, is given by the equation

T(msec) = 41.12*m + 2.85*n + 0.040*m*q - 32.99

and rounding up to the nearest 0.1 sec.

Last modified: 03/10/17

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