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Conjugate-plane photometry: reducing scintillation in ground-based photometry

Osborn, James; Wilson, Richard W.; Dhillon, V.S.; Avila, Remy; Love, Gordon D.


V.S. Dhillon

Remy Avila

Gordon D. Love


High-precision fast photometry from ground-based observatories is a challenge due to intensity fluctuations (scintillation) produced by the Earth's atmosphere. Here we describe a method to reduce the effects of scintillation by a combination of pupil reconjugation and calibration using a comparison star. Because scintillation is produced by high-altitude turbulence, the range of angles over which the scintillation is correlated is small and therefore simple correction by a comparison star is normally impossible. We propose reconjugating the telescope pupil to a high dominant layer of turbulence, then apodizing it before calibration with a comparison star. We find by simulation that given a simple atmosphere with a single high-altitude turbulent layer and a strong surface layer, a reduction in the intensity variance by a factor of ∼30 is possible. Given a more realistic atmosphere as measured by Scintillation Detection and Ranging (SCIDAR) at San Pedro Mártir, we find that on a night with a strong high-altitude layer we can expect the median variance to be reduced by a factor of ∼11. By reducing the scintillation noise we will be able to detect much smaller changes in brightness. If we assume a 2-m telescope and an exposure time of 30 s, a reduction in the scintillation noise from 0.78 to 0.21 mmag is possible, which will enable the routine detection of, for example, the secondary transits of extrasolar planets from the ground.


Osborn, J., Wilson, R. W., Dhillon, V., Avila, R., & Love, G. D. (2011). Conjugate-plane photometry: reducing scintillation in ground-based photometry. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 411(2), 1223-1230.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 1, 2011
Deposit Date Nov 8, 2011
Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Print ISSN 0035-8711
Electronic ISSN 1365-2966
Publisher Royal Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 411
Issue 2
Pages 1223-1230
Keywords Atmospheric effects, Techniques, Photometric.