Chandra X-Ray Observatory
Skip to the navigation links
Last modified: 13 September 2018


Caveats and Limitations

While the Chandra Source Catalog (CSC) is capable of supporting many diverse scientific investigations, users should carefully consider the limitations of the CSC when assessing the efficacy of the catalog for their particular line of inquiry.

  1. Catalog Data:
    1. General
    2. Specific Caveats and Limitations applicable through CSC release 2
    3. Specific Caveats and Limitations for certain ObsIds
    4. Flux Correcting Very Bright Sources
    5. Known issues and limitations with the current catalog view (CSC2)[Updated] (13 Sep 2018)
  2. Catalog Interfaces
    1. CSCview
    2. ADQL
    3. The contributed scripts
Access to version 2 results and data

Users of the catalog current database view (i.e. those users accessing the version 2 catalog) - as opposed to an official catalog release view - should be aware that the contents of the database are subject to revision as processing progresses, and a small fraction of sources present in the catalog database may not meet all of the catalog release quality assurance requirements.

Catalog Data


In particular, users of the CSC should be aware that there may be fundamental and significant selection effects that restrict the source content of the catalog and which therefore may limit scientific studies that require an unbiased source sample. The CSC is constructed from pointed observations obtained using the Chandra X-ray Observatory; it is not an all-sky catalog, and does not include sources detected to a uniform depth. Users should also be aware that the detection of sources with spatial extent more than ~30 arcsec is done with a separate algorithm from that for compact sources.

Note that for some sources in observations with short exposures, there are zero counts in the local background region for some bands. In these cases, the source flux is not computed.

Specific Caveats and Limitations applicable through CSC release 2

  • Users of the XSPEC X-ray spectral fitting package may need to manually split the source region PHA spectrum file (pha3) into separate source region and background region spectra prior to analysis in XSPEC; see the page "Using the L3 Data Products" for instruction.
  • Some data products such as PHA files (pha3) contain 'pixel masks', a new feature. Users of the Chandra Interactive Analysis of Observations (CIAO) data analysis package prior to version 4.10 may encounter problems using these files with some tools.
  • The model independent flux_aper values are computed from the events' observed energy. In narrow energy bands, especially the ultra-soft (0.3-0.5keV) band, the spectral response can change rapidly with energy. This means a small change in observed energy from an event's true energy (as described by the RMF) can result in large changes in the flux. If there are few events this can result in large, undetermined systematic errors. In the other energy bands where spectral response generally changes slowly with energy this is less of a problem. It also becomes less of a problem when there are a large number of events as the Gaussian-like RMF is well sampled and the uncertainty balances out.
  • The true astrometric position error should be consistent with the reported position error for ~90% of the sources. For the ~10% of sources for which this is not the case are not distributed randomly. There are a small number of stacked observations for which the absolute error may be significantly larger than reported (up to a maximum of ~2.0 arcseconds).

Specific Caveats and Limitations for certain ObsIds

  • Some ACIS observations were performed with energy filters applied. Depending on the particular observation, this could remove all or most of the sensitivity for certain CSC energy bands. These data will have NULL values for some of the flux properties and possibly the hardness ratios. More details can be found in the ACIS event energy threshold caveat.

Flux Correcting Very Bright Sources

For some very bright sources, such as 2CXO J150842.1+332802, the method used to correct the energy flux in the source aperture for background contributions, using energy flux in the background aperture, may fail, resulting in NaN's for flux_aper or flux_aper90. Other flux quantities, such as photflux_aper, or src_rate_aper, are unaffected.

Known issues and limitations with the current catalog view (CSC2)

The following issues will be addressed before the full CSC 2.0 release.

17 July 2018

The limiting-sensitivity maps - available via CSCview - are not valid for CSC 2 only, and should not be used.

18 July 2018

Some Master Source energy flux columns in CSCview are empty even though the source significance is high. This happens for sources with more than 10 contributing ObsIDs.

7 August 2018

For a small number of master sources (6,648), the aperture photometry values for the master source best estimate, master average, and detect stack average may be either missing or in error. Bayesian blocks data products for these sources may also be in error. The cause is two-fold:

  • a bug in the algorithm for combining data from ten or more ObsIDs
  • a bug in the algorithm for combining data from any number of ObsIDs, if the intensity-space of the probability distributions for individual ObsIDs did not overlap sufficiently
7 August 2018

For a number of master sources (30,874) aperture photometry values for individual observations (ObsIDs) are also in error, due to errors in computing the encircled energy fractions in the source apertures.

13 September 2018

The upper and lower limits on the spectral-fit parameters - such as powlaw_gamma_hilim and powlaw_gamma_lolim - are incorrect.

13 September 2018

The extent flag and the Source Extent parameters are not reliable for sources identified as extended.

Catalog Interfaces


The software-requirements page contains current instructions for downloading and running the CSCview java application.

Interoperability with other tools

  • The CSCview Send feature has been found to be incompatible with the Catalog Tool in DS9 version 6.0, but should work with versions 6.1 and onward.
  • Users are warned that there is a limit to the amount of data which may be imported into CSCview from a remote, SAMP-connected client (such as Topcat), using the crossmatch User table --> Received Table option in order to perform a crossmatch of this data against the CSC. This limit is 250000 rows in a table of data being imported, e.g., a table containing a full catalog of astronomical data to be crossmatched against the CSC. This means that the number of source matches reported by CSCview will be incorrect, as only the first 250000 rows of the input table will have been used in the query. It is important to note that when an incoming table of data is truncated by CSCview, no warning is issued.


Metadata returned from a query

The metadata returned from an ADQL query is incomplete, as it is missing the units and any UCD terms for most columns.

The contributed scripts

The search_csc and obsid_search_csc scripts currently do not support the CSC 2 database, and so will only return values from the CSC 1.1 release.

Last modified: 13 September 2018
Smithsonian Institute Smithsonian Institute

The Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) is operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA.   Email: Smithsonian Institution, Copyright © 1998-2017. All rights reserved.