The Spitzer-WISE Survey of the Ecliptic Poles

July 2011 • 2011ApJ...735..112J

Authors • Jarrett, T. H. • Cohen, M. • Masci, F. • Wright, E. • Stern, D. • Benford, D. • Blain, A. • Carey, S. • Cutri, R. M. • Eisenhardt, P. • Lonsdale, C. • Mainzer, A. • Marsh, K. • Padgett, D. • Petty, S. • Ressler, M. • Skrutskie, M. • Stanford, S. • Surace, J. • Tsai, C. W. • Wheelock, S. • Yan, D. L.

Abstract • We have carried out a survey of the north and south ecliptic poles, EP-N and EP-S, respectively, with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The primary objective was to cross-calibrate WISE with the Spitzer and Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) photometric systems by developing a set of calibration stars that are common to these infrared missions. The ecliptic poles were continuous viewing zones for WISE due to its polar-crossing orbit, making these areas ideal for both absolute and internal calibrations. The Spitzer IRAC and MIPS imaging survey covers a complete area of 0.40 deg2 for the EP-N and 1.28 deg2 for the EP-S. WISE observed the whole sky in four mid-infrared bands, 3.4, 4.6, 12, and 22 μm, during its eight-month cryogenic mission, including several hundred ecliptic polar passages; here we report on the highest coverage depths achieved by WISE, an area of ~1.5 deg2 for both poles. Located close to the center of the EP-N, the Sy-2 galaxy NGC 6552 conveniently functions as a standard calibrator to measure the red response of the 22 μm channel of WISE. Observations from Spitzer-IRAC/MIPS/IRS-LL and WISE show that the galaxy has a strong red color in the mid-infrared due to star-formation and the presence of an active galactic nucleus (AGN), while over a baseline >1 year the mid-IR photometry of NGC 6552 is shown to vary at a level less than 2%. Combining NGC 6552 with the standard calibrator stars, the achieved photometric accuracy of the WISE calibration, relative to the Spitzer and MSX systems, is 2.4%, 2.8%, 4.5%, and 5.7% for W1 (3.4 μm), W2 (4.6 μm), W3 (12 μm), and W4 (22 μm), respectively. The WISE photometry is internally stable to better than 0.1% over the cryogenic lifetime of the mission. The secondary objective of the Spitzer-WISE Survey was to explore the poles at greater flux-level depths, exploiting the higher angular resolution Spitzer observations and the exceptionally deep (in total coverage) WISE observations that potentially reach down to the confusion limit of the survey. The rich Spitzer and WISE data sets were used to study the Galactic and extragalactic populations through source counts, color-magnitude and color-color diagrams. As an example of what the data sets facilitate, we have separated stars from galaxies, delineated normal galaxies from power-law-dominated AGNs, and reported on the different fractions of extragalactic populations. In the EP-N, we find an AGN source density of ~260 deg-2 to a 12 μm depth of 115 μJy, representing 15% of the total extragalactic population to this depth, similar to what has been observed for low-luminosity AGNs in other fields.


IPAC Authors

Sean Carey

Senior Scientist

Roc Cutri

IPAC Deputy Director