The uBVI photometric system. I. Motivation, implementation, and calibration

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This paper describes the design principles for a CCD-based photometric system that is highly optimized for ground-based measurement of the size of the Balmer jump in stellar energy distributions. It is shown that, among ultraviolet filters in common use, the Thuan-Gunn u filter is the most efficient for this purpose. This filter is combined with the standard Johnson-Kron-Cousins B, V, and I bandpasses to constitute the uBVI photometric system. Model stellar atmospheres are used to calibrate color-color diagrams for the uBVI system in terms of the fundamental stellar parameters of effective temperature, surface gravity, and metallicity. The u - B index is very sensitive to log g, but also to [Fe/H]. It is shown that an analog of the Strömgren c 1 index, defined as (u - B) - (B - V), is much less metallicity dependent but still sensitive to log g. The effect of interstellar reddening on u - B is determined through synthetic photometric calculations, and practical advice is given on dealing with flat fields, atmospheric extinction, the red leak in the u filter, and photometric reductions. The uBVI system offers a wide range of applicability in detecting stars of high luminosity in both young (yellow supergiants) and old (post-AGB stars) populations, in using stars of both types as standard candles to measure extragalactic distances with high efficiency, and in exploring the horizontal branch in globular clusters. In many stellar applications, it can profitably replace the classical UBVI system. Paper II in this series will present a network of well-calibrated standard stars for the uBVI system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2914-2923
Number of pages10
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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