Correcting Observations for Telluric Absorption
Molecfit is a software tool to correct astronomical observations for atmospheric absorption features, based on fitting synthetic transmission spectra to the astronomical data. It can also estimate molecular abundances, especially the water vapour content of the Earth’s atmosphere.
The tool has been developed for ESO by a team of astronomers at the Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics at the University of Innsbruck, as one of three sky modeling and correction tools in an Austrian in-kind contribution to ESO.
Correcting for telluric absorption features usually requires supplementary calibration data which are very expensive in terms of telescope time. In addition, the scheduling flexibility is restricted as these data have to be taken usually directly before/after the science observations due to the high variability of the telluric absorption which depends on the state and the chemical composition of the atmosphere at the time of observations. A tool for telluric absorption correction like Molecfit that is based on synthetic transmission spectra calculated by a radiative transfer code does not require these supplementary calibration data if the science data can directly be fitted. This can save a significant amount of valuable telescope time and increases the instrumental efficiency.
The tool can be run from a command-line or more conveniently through a GUI.
- 23. Februrary 2016: New Molecfit release 1.2.0
- Molecfit now uses the 3-hour interval GDAS data files in the local database.
Previously it only used the 6-hour interval files despite the finer
granularity being available for Paranal.
This means the interpolation of pressure and humidity values to the
observation time should be more accurate.Thanks to Leonard Burtscher
for the report and testing.
- When no GDAS data is available in the local database for the requested
Paranal or La Silla observation it will check an ESO server for a new
version of the database. Currently the database on the server only
contains the data for Paranal and La Silla.
- In this version the automatic download of GDAS profiles for arbitrary
locations on earth is disabled as the server is not available anymore.
Instead manual retrieval of the GDAS profiles can be carried out following
- Fix possible crash when no GDAS data is available and the averaged profile
has to be used.
- Updated bundled GDAS data to include data up to 21.02.2016
- 11. August 2015: New Molecfit release 1.1.1
- support ESO science data products standard (SDP) format for
one-dimensional (1D) spectra Note the use of units stored in this format is
not yet supported, wlgtomicron still needs to be set correctly in the parameter
- support astropy.io.fits in addition to pyfits for GUI
- some more wxWidgets 3.0 fixes
- Updated bundled gdas data to include data up to 07.08.2015
- 10. April 2015: New Molecfit release 1.1.0
- Improved convolution with a wavelength-dependent synthetic kernel, which
does not produce weak periodic glitches anymore.
- User-defined kernels can also be provided for each pixel separately. The
required matrix of kernel elements has to be written into an ASCII file.
- Removed input wavelength range limit. This allows usage with instrument
data covering larger ranges.
- Improved compatibility with wxWidgets 3.0
- Updated bundled gdas data to include data up to 07.04.2015
- 22. October 2014: NCEP Central Operations (NCO) has unexpectedly turned off the server nomad3.ncep.noaa.gov
from where molecfit automatically retrieves the atmospheric profiles.
- Therefore molecfit will not be able to automatically determine atmospheric profiles for
observations done at Cerro Paranal after the 31. July 2014 or any observations not done at Cerro Paranal.
- For any location on Earth, manual retrieval of the GDAS profiles can be carried out
following this procedure.
- For Cerro Paranal observations obtained after 31 July 2014 the profile database can be
updated manually as described here, or following Section 7.2.4 of
the Molecfit User Manual.
- We are working on an alternative procedure for automatic retrieval of GDAS profiles.
- 7. August 2014: Minor bugfix release of Molecfit 1.0.2.
- Avoid pseudo-line at 2.069 µm in calctrans results of X-Shooter NIR-arm
spectra due to an additional overlap of adjacent LBLRTM spectra. Only
relevant for wide wavelength ranges, where LBLRTM has to be run several
- Improved robustness to invalid parameter inputs
- Updated bundled gdas data to include data up to 31.07.2014
- 11. April 2014: Minor bugfix release of Molecfit 1.0.1.
- Fixes a wrong path in an example configuration file and issues with versions 1.1.0 and 1.2.0 of matplotlib used by the GUI.
- 1. April 2014: First release of Molecfit 1.0.0 available.
Users of Molecfit are requested to cite the following papers:
Molecfit: A general tool for telluric absorption correction I. Method and application to ESO instruments A. Smette, H. Sana, S. Noll, H. Horst, W. Kausch, S. Kimeswenger, M.Barden, C. Szyszka, A. M. Jones, A. Gallene, J. Vinther, P. Ballester and J. Taylor (2015, A&A 576, A77)
Molecfit: A general tool for telluric absorption correction II. Quantitative evaluation on ESO-VLT/X-Shooter spectra W. Kausch, S. Noll, A. Smette, S. Kimeswenger, M. Barden, C. Szyszka, A. M. Jones, H. Sana, H. Horst, and F. Kerber, (2015, A&A 576, A78).
The latest version of the installers:
The installers include example data and configurations for XSHOOTER, CRIRES and VISIR instruments.
Older versions are available on the FTP server
The installation procedure is described here.
Source code required to build Molecfit and its dependencies:Molecfit source files
In case the automatic download of weather profiles fails, a monthly updated local database can be downloaded here. It contains all available profiles for Cerro Paranal from December 2004 up the last week. To use it replace <INST_DIR>/data/profiles/gdas/gdas_profiles_C-70.4-24.6.tar.gz with the downloaded file.