IRAS Explanatory Supplement
A. General Overview
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The results of several portions of the IRAS mission are given in a catalog of infrared point sources, in a catalog of extended sources smaller than 8', in a catalog of low-resolution spectra, and in an atlas of absolute surface brightness images of the entire infrared sky. These catalogs give the characteristics of some 250,000 point sources and 20,000 small extended sources down to a limiting flux density, away from confused regions of the sky, of about 0.5 Jy at 12, 25 and 60 µm and about 1.5 Jy at 100 µm for point sources, and about a factor of three brighter than this for small extended sources. The angular resolution of the instrument varied between about 0.5' at 12 µm to about 2' at 100 µm. The positional accuracy of sources detected by IRAS depends on their size, brightness and spectral energy distribution but is usually better than 20". Approximately 5000 8-22 µm spectra of survey sources brighter than 10 Jy at 12 and 25 µm are available.
Chapter II, the IRAS satellite, telescope and focal plane instrumentation are reviewed. The elements of the mission profile--the constraints, the design features, and the in-flight modifications to that design--are described in Chapter III and are accompanied by a chronology of the events of the mission. In-flight tests of those aspects of the performance of the instrument directly associated with the survey are presented in Chapter IV. Chapters V and VI describe the processing performed on the data; the summaries that precede the detailed discussions should be sufficient to acquaint the user with the contents of the catalogs. Since the flux reconstruction and calibration of the instrument probably hold intrinsic interest for many readers, these are described separately in Chapter VI.
A preliminary analysis of some of the statistical properties of the catalogs is given in Chapter VII. Emphasis is placed on general statistics, such as positional and photometric accuracy and on easily derived number counts. A preliminary analysis of the sky coverage and of the completeness and reliability of the catalog is given in Chapter VIII. The low-resolution spectrometer and the analysis of its measurements are described in Chapter IX. Chapter X explains the format and meaning of each of the entries in the catalogs. Each printed volume of the catalogs repeats the description of the formats of that catalog.
In order to produce the catalogs in a timely fashion, some processing errors and anomalies could not be fixed; those which were discovered before the release of the data in November 1984 are described in Chapter XI. Chapter XII gives the errata and revisions as of 1987, including the important flux overestimation correction used for version 2.0 of the Point Source Catalog. A compilation of the names of people who worked on the IRAS project comprises Chapter XIII. The last chapter provides a series of plots giving the details of the coverage of the sky by the IRAS survey.
Each chapter of the Supplement was written by those members of the IRAS team whose names are appended to that chapter. The work described was obviously the result of efforts by many individuals and should not be ascribed to the authors alone.
- The sky at 100 µm is dominated by filaments termed "infrared
cirrus" which, although concentrated near the Galactic plane,
can be found almost all the way up to the Galactic poles
(Fig. I.C.4). The primary, deleterious
effects of the cirrus are that it can generate well-confirmed point and small
extended sources that are actually pieces of degree-sized structures rather
than isolated, discrete objects and that it can corrupt 100 µm, and
occasionally 60 µm, measurements of true point sources
- The spectral bandwidths of the detectors were sufficiently wide that
the quoted flux densities depend on the assumed energy distribution of
the source. For the catalogs, the energy distribution was taken to be constant
in the flux per logarithmic frequency interval. If the source has a different
energy distribution than this, a color conection, as large as 50%
in extreme cases, must be applied to the quoted flux densities
- The survey is clearly confusion limited within about 10°
of the Galactic plane and in several areas of the sky such as the Ophiuchus
and Orion-Taurus regions. Considerable effort has been made to select only
highly reliable sources in such areas, at the expense of completeness.
The flags associated with sources with possible confusion-related problems
should be examined very carefully (Sections
- The algorithm used to estimate the detector noise suffered from a
signifficant lag. This caused an under-estimate of the true noise when
approaching regions of rapidiy changing noise and an over-estimate of the
noise when leaving such areas. Regions with large and rapidiy varying numbers
of sources, such as the Galactic plane, also produced this effect. Since
the source detection algorithm (Section V.C)
thresholded on signal to noise ratio, the overestimated noise level resulted
in a dearth of sources, or a shadow, in the areas observed just
after passage across the Galactic plane. At 60 and 100 µm, where
the effect is worst, a "coverage hole" can extend as far as
2° from the plane. The density of detected sources can differ, totally
artificially, by as much as a factor of ten from one side of the plane
to the other due to this shadowing
- While great pains were taken to confirm the reality of sources in the point and small extended source catalogs, no such attempt was made for the sky brightness images. Instead, separate images of the sky taken at times differing from weeks to months are given. It is the responsibility of the user to ensure that sources seen in the images are not due to transient sources such as asteroids.
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