Calibrating iodine cells for precise radial velocities

Sharon Xuesong Wang, Jason T. Wright, Phillip Macqueen, William D. Cochran, David R. Doss, Coyne A. Gibson, Joseph R. Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


High fidelity iodine spectra provide the wavelength and instrument calibration needed to extract precise radial velocities (RVs) from stellar spectral observations taken through iodine cells. Such iodine spectra are usually taken by a Fourier Transform Spectrometer (FTS). In this work, we investigated the reason behind the discrepancy between two FTS spectra of the iodine cell used for precise RV work with the High Resolution Spectrograph (HRS) at the Hobby–Eberly Telescope (HET). We concluded that the discrepancy between the two HRS FTS spectra was due to temperature changes of the iodine cell. Our work demonstrated that the ultra-high resolution spectra taken by the TS12 arm of the Tull Spectrograph One at McDonald Observatory are of similar quality to the FTS spectra and thus can be used to validate the FTS spectra. Using the software IodineSpec5, which computes the iodine absorption lines at different temperatures, we concluded that the HET/HRS cell was most likely not at its nominal operating temperature of 70°C during its FTS scan at National Institute of Standards and Technology or at the TS12 measurement. We found that extremely high resolution echelle spectra (R > 200,000) can validate and diagnose deficiencies in FTS spectra. We also recommend best practices for temperature control and nightly calibration of iodine cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014503
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number1007
StatePublished - Jan 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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