Observing strategy for the SDSS-IV/MaNGA IFU galaxy survey

David R. Law, Renbin Yan, Matthew A. Bershady, Kevin Bundy, Brian Cherinka, Niv Drory, Nicholas MacDonald, Jose R. Sanchez-Gallego, David A. Wake, Anne-Marie Weijmans, Michael R. Blanton, Mark Klaene, Sean M. Moran, Sebastian F. Sanchez, Kai Zhang

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MaNGA (Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory) is an integral-field spectroscopic survey that is one of three core programs in the fourth-generation Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-IV). MaNGA’s 17 pluggable optical fiber-bundle integral field units (IFUs) will observe a sample of 10,000 nearby galaxies distributed throughout the SDSS imaging footprint (focusing particularly on the North Galactic Cap). In each pointing these IFUs are deployed across a 3◦ field; they yield spectral coverage 3600-10,300 Å at a typical resolution R 2000, and sample the sky with 2” diameter fiber apertures with a total bundle fill factor of 56%. Observing over such a large field and range of wavelengths is particularly challenging for obtaining uniform and integral spatial coverage and resolution at all wavelengths and across each entire fiber array. Data quality is affected by the IFU construction technique, chromatic and field differential refraction, the adopted dithering strategy, and many other effects. We use numerical simulations to constrain the hardware design and observing strategy for the survey with the aim of ensuring consistent data quality that meets the survey science requirements while permitting maximum observational flexibility. We find that MaNGA science goals are best achieved with IFUs composed of a regular hexagonal grid of optical fibers with rms displacement of 5 μm or less from their nominal packing position; this goal is met by the MaNGA hardware, which achieves 3 μm rms fiber placement. We further show that MaNGA observations are best obtained in sets of three 15-minute exposures dithered along the vertices of a 1.44 arcsec equilateral triangle; these sets form the minimum observational unit, and are repeated as needed to achieve a combined signal-to-noise ratio of 5 °A−1 per fiber in the r-band continuum at a surface brightness of 23 AB arcsec−2. In order to ensure uniform coverage and delivered image quality, we require that the exposures in a given set be obtained within a 60 minute interval of each other in hour angle, and that all exposures be obtained at airmass less than or similar to 1.2 (i.e., within 1-3 hours of transit depending on the declination of a given field).

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Number of pages17
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2015


  • Atmospheric effects
  • Methods: observational
  • Surveys
  • Techniques: imaging spectroscopy


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