GNU Astronomy Utilities


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8.2.1.2 Instrumental noise

While taking images with a camera, a dark current is fed to the pixels, the variation of the value of this dark current over the pixels, also adds to the final image noise. Another source of noise is the readout noise that is produced by the electronics in the detector. Specifically, the parts that attempt to digitize the voltage produced by the photo-electrons in the analog to digital converter. With the current generation of instruments, this source of noise is not as significant as the noise due to the background Sky discussed in Photon counting noise.

Let \(C\) represent the combined standard deviation of all these instrumental sources of noise. When only this source of noise is present, the noised pixel value would be a random value chosen from a Gaussian distribution with

$$\mu=I_{nn}, \quad \sigma=\sqrt{C^2+I_{nn}}$$

This type of noise is independent of the signal in the dataset, it is only determined by the instrument. So the flux scale (and not magnitude scale) is most commonly used for this type of noise. In practice, this value is usually reported in analog-to-digital units or ADUs, not flux or electron counts. The gain value of the device can be used to convert between these two, see Flux Brightness and magnitude.