3.1 Specifications


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3.1   Specifications

3.1.1   Instrument Overview

The Far Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer (FIFI-LS) is an integral field, far infrared spectrometer. The instrument includes two independent, simultaneously operating grating spectrometers sharing one common field-of-view (FOV). Each spectrometer has a detector consisting of 400 pixels of Germanium Gallium-doped photoconductors. The short wavelength spectrometer (blue channel) operates at wavelengths between 50 μm and 125 μm, while the long wavelength spectrometer (red channel) covers the range from 105 μm up to 200 μm. One of two dichroics has to be selected for an observation affecting the wavelength range of both channels in the overlap region.

The projection onto the sky of the 5x5 pixel FOVs of both channels is concentric (10 arcsec offset), but the angular size of the FOVs differs. The red channel has a pixel size of 12x12 arcsec yielding a square 1 arcmin FOV  and the blue channel has a pixel size of 6x6 arcsec, which yields a square 30 arcsec FOV.

The resolving power of both channels varies between 1000 and 2000 dependent on the observed wavelength. The higher values are reached towards the long wavelength ends of each spectrometer.

The detectors are cooled down to about 1.7 K with super fluid helium. The spectrometers and all mirrors are cooled down to 4 K with liquid helium. The exception is the entrance optics featuring a K-mirror (see Section and an internal calibration source. These optical components are cooled to about 80 K with liquid nitrogen.

Return to Table of Contents   Integral Field Concept

The integral field unit (IFU) allows FIFI-LS to obtain spectra at each point in its FOV; this is in contrast to a spectrometer with a slit, which only provides spectra along the slit. Both channels in FIFI-LS have an IFU, which consists of 15 specialized mirrors to separate the two dimensional 5x5 pixel FOV into five slices (of five pixels length each) which are then reorganized along a (one dimensional) line (25x1 pixel). This line forms the entrance slit of the actual spectrometer. The diffraction grating disperses the incoming light in the spectral dimension. Finally the dispersed light reaches the 16x25 pixel detector array. The result is a data cube with 5x5 spatial pixels (spaxels) and 16 pixels in the spectral dimension. Figure 3-1 shows the concept.

Figure 3-1.
FIFI-LS data cube diagram

Figure 3-1. Illustration of the field imaging concept in FIFI-LS. The optics slice the rows of the 5x5 pixel field of view into a 25x1 pixel pseudo slit.

Return to Table of Contents   Selection of the Dichroic

The two channels have an overlap in their wavelength range. That is necessary because a dichroic splits the light between the two channels allowing the common FOV for both channels. The drawback is that a dichroic has a transition region where neither the transmission nor the reflection is good. Thus, FIFI-LS has two dichroics with transitions at different wavelengths. The The D105 cuts off the blue channel at about 100 μm and opens the red at about 115 μm. The D130 cuts off the blue channel at 120 μm and opens the red at 130 μm. Figure 3-2 should be used to choose the best dichroic and line combinations. The proposer needs to pair up wavelengths so that each pair can be observed efficiently with one of the dichroics. Typically, the D105 is used unless a wavelength between 100 and 115 μm is observed.

Figure 3-2.
Transmission vs wavelength plot with red and blue channels

Figure 3-2. Throughput of optical system—here the transmission of the overall optical system is shown for the six possible optical configurations using two dichroic beam splitters (D105 and D130) and both grating orders (blue channel only).

Return to Table of Contents   Beam Rotator

The SOFIA telescope is essentially an Alt-Az-mounted telescope. Thus, the field of view on the sky rotates while tracking an object. However, the telescope can rotate around all three axes, but the amount it can rotate in cross-elevation and line-of-sight is limited. Thus, the normally continuous sky rotation is frozen-in for some time while the telescope is inertially stabilized. When the telescope reaches its limit in line-of-sight rotation, it needs to rewind, resulting in a rotated FOV of the telescope.

FIFI-LS has a beam rotator (K-mirror) that rotates the instrument's FOV, counteracting the sky rotation experienced by the SOFIA telescope. When a rewind happens, the FIFI-LS beam rotator will automatically rotate the FOV of the instrument, so that the position angle of the instrument's FOV on the sky is maintained. An additional benefit is that the beam rotator enables the observer to line up the FOV with e.g. the axes of a galaxy and keep the alignment. The desired position angle of the FOV can be specified in Phase II of the proposal process.

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3.1.2   Performance   Comparison with the PACS Spectrometer

The FIFI-LS design is very similar to the Herschel/PACS-spectrometer sharing much of the design. The detectors are basically the same and the optical design is very similar (same sized gratings in Littrow configuration, same IFU). The difference is that FIFI-LS features two grating spectrometers whereas the PACS-spectrometer had only one. The two gratings make it possible to observe two different wavelengths simultaneously and independent of each other (one in each channel). This design also allows different pixel sizes (6 arcsec vs 12 arcsec) in each spectrometer, which means a better match to the beam size. The spectral range of FIFI-LS also goes down to 51 μm whereas PACS did not routinely observe the [OIII] 52 μm line.

Return to Table of Contents   Spectral Resolution

The blue spectrometer operates in 1st and 2nd order. An order-sorting filter blocks the unwanted order. The red spectrometer only operates in 1st order. The spectral resolution of FIFI-LS depends on the observed wavelength. It ranges from R = λ/Δλ ~500 to 2000 corresponding to a velocity resolution of 150 to 600 km/s. The top panel of Figure 3-3 shows the spectral resolution in velocity and in R vs. wavelength, also given in Table 3-1 for selected spectral lines.

FIFI-LS has 16 pixels in the spectral direction. The wavelength range covered by these 16 pixels also depends on the observing wavelength. The bottom panel of Figure 3-3 shows the instantaneous spectral coverage or bandwidth (BW) in micron. 

Table 3-1.
Spectral Lines
Line Rest λ (micron) Channel R FWHM (km/s) Inst. Cov. (km/s) Inst. Cov. (micron)
[OIII] 51.8 blue 950 320 1840 0.32
[NIII] 57.3 blue 1050 280 1540 0.29
[OI] 63.2 blue 1300 230 1240 0.26
[OIII] 88.4 blue 600 490 2340 0.69
[NII] 121.9 red 750 390 2340 0.69
[NII] 121.9 blue 1050 290 1350 0.55
[OI] 145.5 red 1000 300 1800 0.87
[CII] 157.7 red 1150 260 1560 0.82
more to come CO lines            
Spectral resolution and instantaneous coverage for selected spectral lines

Figure 3-3.

Spectral resolution plot

Instantaneous spectral coverage plot

Figure 3-3. Top, The spectral resolution in km/s and λ/Δλ for both channels; Bottom, The instantaneous wavelength coverage in km/s of the 16 spectral pixels vs. wavelength.

Return to Table of Contents   Sensitivity

FIFI-LS will operate such that the detectors are always background-limited, infrared photodetectors. Under this assumption, the overall performance of FIFI-LS as a function of wavelength has been estimated. Further assumptions about the emissivity of the telescope, optics, and baffling, the efficiency of the detectors had to be made. Figure 3-4 shows the resulting sensitivities for continuum and unresolved lines as minimum detectable fluxes per pixel, i.e. detected with a signal to noise ratio (SNR) of 4 and an on-source integration time of 900 s or 15 min.

The SOFIA Instrument Time Estimator (SITE) should be used to estimate the on-source exposure times used in proposals and observing preparation. The time estimator calculates the on-source integration time per map position for a source flux, F and a desired SNR using Eq. 3-1:


ton=l(SNR/4αF/MDF(λ))2900 s


where MDF(λ) is either the Minimum Detectable Continuum Flux (MDCF) in Jy per pixel or the Minimum Detectable Line Flux (MDLF) in W m-2 per pixel at the entered wavelength (see Figure 3-4).


Figure 3-4.

Minimum detectable continuum flux plot


Minimum detectable line flux plot

Figure 3-4. Continuum and emission line sensitivities for a monochromatic point source: The values are calculated for a SNR of 4 in 900 s. The MDCF is in Jy per pixel and the MDLF is in Wm-2 per pixel. Both sensitivity values scale as SNR / √(t), where t is the on-source integration time.


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