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Performance of ESPRESSO’S high-resolution 4 × 2 binning for characterising intervening absorbers towards faint quasars

T. A. M. Berg, G. Cupani, P. Figueira, A. Mehner

As of October 2021 (Period 108), the European Southern Observatory (ESO) offers a new mode of the ESPRESSO spectrograph designed to use the high-resolution grating with 4 × 2 binning (spatial by spectral; HR42 mode), with the specific objective of observing faint targets with a single Unit Telescope at Paranal. We validated the new HR42 mode using four hours of on-target observations of the quasar J0003-2603, known to host an intervening metal-poor absorber along the line of sight. The capabilities of the ESPRESSO HR42 mode (resolving power R ≈ 137 000) were evaluated by comparing them to a UVES spectrum of the same target with a similar integration time but lower resolving power (R ≈ 48 000). For both data sets, we tested the ability to decompose the velocity profile of the intervening absorber using Voigt profile fitting and extracted the total column densities of C IV, N I, Si II, Al II, Fe II, and Ni II. With ≈3× the resolving power and ≈2× lower signal-noise ratio (S/N) for a nearly equivalent exposure time, the ESPRESSO data is able to just as accurately characterise the individual components of the absorption lines as the comparison UVES data, but it has the added bonus of identifying narrower components not detected by UVES. For UVES to provide similar spectral resolution (R > 100 000; 0.3″ slit) and the broad wavelength coverage of ESPRESSO, the Exposure Time Calculator (ETC) supplied by ESO estimates 8 h of exposure time spread over two settings, requiring double the time investment compared to that of ESPRESSO’s HR42 mode whilst not properly sampling the UVES spectral resolution element. Thus, ESPRESSO’s HR42 mode offers nearly triple the resolving power of UVES (0.8″ slit to match typical ambient conditions at Paranal) and provides more accurate characterisation of quasar absorption features for an equivalent exposure time.

instrumentation: spectrographs / quasars: absorption lines / galaxies: abundances

Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume 662, Article Number A35, Number of pages 8
2022 June

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia