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The “Ideal Spectrograph” for Atmospheric Observations


Wagner,  Thomas
Satellite Remote Sensing, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Platt, U., Wagner, T., Kuhn, J., & Leisner, T. (2021). The “Ideal Spectrograph” for Atmospheric Observations. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions, 14. doi:10.5194/amt-2020-521.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-5009-4
Spectroscopy of scattered-sunlight in the near UV to near IR spectral ranges has proven to be an extremely useful tool for the analysis of atmospheric trace gas distributions. A central parameter for the achievable sensitivity and spatial resolution of spectroscopic instruments is the étendue (product of aperture angle and entrance area) of the spectrograph, which is at the heart of the instrument. The étendue of an instrument can be enhanced by (1) up-scaling all instrument dimensions or (2) by changing the instrument F-number, (3) by increasing the entrance area, or (4) by operating many instruments (of identical design) in parallel. The étendue can be enhanced by (in principle) arbitrary factors by options (1) and (4), the effect of options (2) and (3) is limited.

We present some new ideas and considerations how instruments for the spectroscopic determination of atmospheric gases could be optimized by using new possibilities in spectrograph design and manufacturing. Particular emphasis is on arrays of massively parallel instruments for observations using scattered-sunlight. Such arrays can reduce size and weight of instruments by orders of magnitude, while preserving spectral resolution and light throughput. We also discuss the optimal size of individual spectrographs in a spectrograph array and give examples of spectrograph systems for use on a (low Earth orbit) satellite including one with sub-km ground pixel size.