Dark Energy Camera (DECam)
Updated on January 18, 2023, 9:30 am
Read more about NOIRLab's instruments and other capabilities in the Capabilities brochure.
DECam is a high-performance, wide-field CCD imager mounted at the prime focus of the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, with 62 science CCDs (60.5 useful) with 520 megapixels and images 3 square degrees (2.2 degree wide) field at 0.263 arcsecond/pixel resolution. DECam is a facility instrument, available to all users. DECam was built to carry out the Dark Energy Survey (DES) Project by the DES Collaboration, which finished observations in January 2019. We can accommodate programs from small to large, and also those with special requirements such as synoptic and target of opportunity. Most of the programs fit within a "half night" organization, which provides a better match of program requirements to lunar phase than does whole night scheduling. Note that observations are taken "classically," with astronomers present at the telescope, although we can also under pre-arranged conditions support remote observing from a permanent and tested remote observing facility. We do not offer queue observing. Please do not hesitate to contact us (email@example.com).
- READ THIS! Safety precautions for operating DECam
- The DECam Users Guide -- Here you can find information on how to prepare and execute your observing run. Includes links to the ETC and scripts editor.
- Instrument Characteristics -- focal plane characteristics, pixel orientation, pixel scale distortion map
- Remote Observing with DECam
- Status of DECam CCDs
- Calibration Files -- crosstalk correction and bad pixel masks
- Filter information
- DECam Shutter
- Known Problems
- Frequently Asked Questions
- READ THIS! Target of Opportunity (ToO): You may be requested to observe a ToO
- Data Handbook: The DECam chapter of the Data Handbook (chapter 4) contains information not only about the instrument and observing system, but also covers the data format and the processing done by the DECam Community Pipeline and the resulting data products.
- A Community Pipeline operated by NSF's NOIRLab processes raw community-time DECam images and calibration frames into single and stacked frames with astrometric and rough photometric solutions. Useful notes on the Community Pipeline can be found here
- All data are served from the NOIRLab Astro Data Archive.
- DES Data Releases are here
- The DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS) Data Releases are available here
- The Astro DataLab also hosts both DES DR1 and DECaLS catalogs
- Photometric transformations from DECam filters to other systems can be done via transformation equations or interpolation (Allam, Tucker, et al, in preparation)
- For DES images we serve single-images (i.e. not stacks) as reduced by the DES pipeline, respecting the 12-month proprietary time. DES only process and releases those images judged to be of survey quality. Non-survey quality images may still be scientifically useful for some purposes.
- NEW! A guide for making custom stacked images, by F. Valdes
- Talks from the DECam Community Science Workshop (Tucson, May 21-22, 2018) are available here.
- DES DR1 paper is available here. DES DR2 paper is available here.
- Talks from the DECam Community Science Workshop (Tucson, March 11-13, 2015) are available here.
- Seeing the Big Picture - DECam Community Workshop (18-19 August 2011).
- The workshops Precision Astronomy with Fully Depleted CCDs 2013 and 2014 cover much useful technical information on the DECam CCDs. At least five of the talks from 2013 are available as papers on Arxiv.org:
- C. Stubbs "Precision Astronomy with Imperfect Fully Depleted CCDs -- An Introduction and a Suggested Lexicon",
- P. Antilogus et al. "The brighter-fatter effect and pixel correlations in CCD sensors",
- A. Rasmussen "Pixel area variations in sensors: a novel framework for predicting pixel fidelity and distortion in flat field response",
- Plazas et al. "Transverse electric fields' effects in the Dark Energy Camera CCDs",
- Holland et al. "Physics of Fully Depleted CCDs".
- Valdes & Gruendl (2014) paper on the DECam Community Pipeline
- Science papers based on DECam data
- NEW! DECam at 10 years: Looking Back, Looking Forward -- to be held in Tucson, AZ, September 12-14, 2022
- The last image for the Dark Energy Survey (DES) was taken on January 9, 2019!
- Since early 2018 there is a new narrow-band (H-alpha) filter available in DECam. Details here.
- DECam Community Science Workshop 2018 held in Tucson, AZ, May 21-22
- 2016 December 29: During this night CCD S30 began working again!! Since November 2013 when this CCD "failed" it has shown no stars, nothing but streaks. The fault was proven to be inside the dewar, and was consistemt with losing a clock signal. However since Dec 29 star images and flats look completely normal. The revival took place sometime between images 604976 and 605314.
- 2016 March 9: New version of the ETC (v7) is available with correction of an error in the calculation of the CCD read noise contribution to the total S/N. This was affecting mainly short exposures taken with bluer filters in dark conditions.
- 2015 Dec. A new filter, N964, was installed in the DECam system on December 2015. This is a narrow-band filter made by Materion and funded by an international team with PI JunXian Wang of the University of Science and Technology, PRC. It is centered at 9640 A with a width of 95 A. The filter is available for use by NOAO and Chilean community scientists with prior authorization from the PI and his team. Please, contact us in advance if you are interested in using it.
- 2015 Apr 2.Communicating DECam Exposures to Ignore to the NOIRLabCommunity Pipeline
- 2015 March 7. New version (v6) of the ETC with changes in QE, mirror reflectivity and central wavelength of the u filter.
- 2014 September 2. ETC updated to follow the real DECam PSF rather than a Gaussian.
- 2014 March 17. AVR filter, covering 500-760 nm, so approximately twice the bandpass of the SDSS filters, has been successfully installed. Images are still being evaluated, but look good! Exposure failures due to the shutter aborting are a thing of the past, with the replacement of a drive motor. And, the shutter and filter assembly interior axial surfaces have been painted with anti-reflection paint, and image contamination by bright stars just outside the FOV are greatly (factor 100?) attenuated.
- 2013 December 17: The Blanco dome encoder system has been replaced. The new tape and reader provide accurate readings of the dome position (to better than one degree) and misalignments of telescope and dome should now be a thing of the past.
- 2013 November 30: CCD S30 is not working. Unlike the failure of N30 a year ago that was associated with over-illumination, S30 is exhibiting problems with one of its bias voltages. It is not 100% sure whether the fault is with the CCD or associated electronics; tests are proceeding.
- 2013 October 28: ETC updated to correct an incorrect value for the telescope collecting area, and also it now handles all lunar phases.
- DECam Instrument Scientist: Alistair Walker
- Science support: Tim Abbott, Kathy Vivas, Alfredo Zenteno, Wilson Liu, Guillermo Damke
- CTIO DECam Support Staff for 2021B
- Support Staff for older semesters
CTIO DECam Support Pages (Internal Use Only)
DECam PropIDs & Special Cases (Internal Use Only)
DECam Log of Configuration Changes and Events (Internal Use Only)