, Volume 74, Issue 1-2, pp 17-25

Detection limits in the far infrared

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Abstract

The advent of far infrared arrays will change fundamentally the means of analyzing observations in this spectral region. Sources much fainter than traditional “confusion limits” will be extracted from images by using computer algorithms similar to CLEAN or DAOPHOT. We have conducted numerical experiments to evaluate these techniques and show that they will permit long integrations (∼10,000 sec at 60 μm, ∼200 sec at 100 μm) to achieve nearly photon-background-limited performance and hence very deep detection limits. The dominant noise sources—photon noise, confusion by distant galaxies, and confusion by IR cirrus — scale with nearly the same power of the telescope aperture. As a result, the integration times required to reach confusion limits are nearly aperture-independent.