The throughput calibration of the VERITAS telescopes

C. B. Adams, W. Benbow, A. Brill, J. H. Buckley, J. L. Christiansen, A. Falcone, Q. Feng, J. P. Finley, G. M. Foote, L. Fortson, A. Furniss, C. Giuri, D. Hanna, T. Hassan, O. Hervet, J. Holder, B. Hona, T. B. Humensky, W. Jin, P. KaaretT. K. Kleiner, S. Kumar, M. J. Lang, M. Lundy, G. Maier, P. Moriarty, R. Mukherjee, M. Nievas Rosillo, S. O'Brien, N. Park, S. Patel, K. Pfrang, M. Pohl, R. R. Prado, E. Pueschel, J. Quinn, K. Ragan, P. T. Reynolds, D. Ribeiro, E. Roache, J. L. Ryan, M. Santander, A. Weinstein, D. A. Williams, T. J. Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context. The response of imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes to incident γ-ray-initiated showers in the atmosphere changes as the telescopes age due to exposure to light and weather. These aging processes affect the reconstructed energies of the events and γ-ray fluxes. Aims. This work discusses the implementation of signal calibration methods for the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) to account for changes in the optical throughput and detector performance over time. Methods. The total throughput of a Cherenkov telescope is the product of camera-dependent factors, such as the photomultiplier tube gains and their quantum efficiencies, and the mirror reflectivity and Winston cone response to incoming radiation. This document summarizes different methods to determine how the camera gains and mirror reflectivity have evolved over time and how we can calibrate this changing throughput in reconstruction pipelines for imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. The implementation is validated against seven years of observations with the VERITAS telescopes of the Crab Nebula, which is a reference object in very-high-energy astronomy. Results. Regular optical throughput monitoring and the corresponding signal calibrations are found to be critical for the reconstruction of extensive air shower images. The proposed implementation is applied as a correction to the signals of the photomultiplier tubes in the telescope simulation to produce fine-tuned instrument response functions. This method is shown to be effective for calibrating the acquired γ-ray data and for recovering the correct energy of the events and photon fluxes. At the same time, it keeps the computational effort of generating Monte Carlo simulations for instrument response functions affordably low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA83
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. This research is supported by grants from the US Department of Energy Office of Science, the US National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution, by NSERC in Canada, and by the Helmholtz Association in Germany. This research used resources provided by the Open Science Grid, which is supported by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a US Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility operated under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231. We acknowledge the excellent work of the technical support staff at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory and at the collaborating institutions in the construction and operation of the instrument. M.N. acknowledges the Young Investigators Program of the Helmholtz Association for support during the period of the project.

Publisher Copyright:
© C. B. Adams et al. 2022.


  • Astroparticle physics
  • Instrumentation: detectors
  • Techniques: image processing
  • Telescopes


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