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Last modified: 12 January 2024


Chandra Source Catalog Release 2.0

Release 2.0 Overview

The Chandra Source Catalog (CSC) is the definitive catalog of X-ray sources detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. By combining Chandra's sub-arcsecond on-axis spatial resolution and low instrumental background with consistent data processing, the CSC delivers a wide variety of uniformly calibrated properties and science ready data products for detected sources over four decades of flux. The second major release of the catalog, CSC 2.0, includes measured properties for 317,167 unique compact and extended X-ray sources in the sky, allowing statistical analysis of large samples, as well as individual source studies. Extracted properties are provided for 928,280 individual observation detections identified in 10,382 Chandra ACIS and HRC-I imaging observations released publicly through the end of 2014. CSC 2.0 includes—as an "alpha" release—photometric properties for 1,299 highly extended (≳30″) sources, together with surface brightness polygons for several contour levels.

The sensitivity limit for compact sources in CSC 2.0 is ~5 net counts (a factor of ≳2 better than the previous catalog release). This improvement is achieved by using a two-stage approach that involves co-adding multiple observations of the same field prior to source detection, and then using an optimized source detection method.

For each X-ray detection and source, the catalog provides a detailed set of more than 100 tabulated positional, spatial, photometric, spectral, and temporal properties (each with associated lower and upper confidence intervals and measured in multiple energy bands). The catalog Bayesian aperture photometry code produces robust photometric probability density functions (PDFs), even in crowded fields and for low count detections. Release 2 uses a Bayesian Blocks analysis to identify multiple observations of the same source that have similar photometric properties, and these are analyzed simultaneously to improve S/N.

CSC 2.0 additionally provides an extensive selection of individual observation, stacked-observation, detection region, and master source FITS data products (e.g., responses, PSFs, spectra, light curves, aperture photometry PDFs) that are immediately usable for further detailed scientific analysis.

Overview of CSC 2.0
Number of master sources Combined 317,167
compact sources 315,868
convex-hull sources 1,299
Number of stacked observation detections 376,343
detections and photometric upper-limits 620,555
Number of individual observation detections 928,280
detections and photometric upper-limits 1,420,545

Users are urged to review the catalog Caveats and Limitations prior to using the CSC for their scientific investigations. Questions about the CSC may be submitted the CXC Helpdesk; refer also to the FAQs section of the website for answers to frequently asked questions.

Release 2.0 Enhancements

Compared with release 1.1 of the catalog, CSC 2.0 represents a major improvement in both quantity of data included (CSC 1.1 included data up to 2009) and the approach to data processing, resulting in fainter source detection thresholds and better defined source properties.

Unique sources in CSC 2.0 compared to CSC 1.1

[The gif animation skips between the number of sources per "pixel" in CSC 1.1 and CSC 2.0. The color scale is logorithmically-scaled between 1 and 3000 (which is close to the maximum value of CSC 1.1), and the animation shows that CSC 2.0 covers more sky (as there are more pixels), and goes deeper (there are more sources per pixel).]
[Print media version: The gif animation skips between the number of sources per "pixel" in CSC 1.1 and CSC 2.0. The color scale is logorithmically-scaled between 1 and 3000 (which is close to the maximum value of CSC 1.1), and the animation shows that CSC 2.0 covers more sky (as there are more pixels), and goes deeper (there are more sources per pixel).]

Unique sources in CSC 2.0 compared to CSC 1.1

The animation compares the number of unique sources detected per "pixel" for releases 1.1 and 2.0 of the Chandra Source Catalog. The increase in both sky coverage and sensitivity for CSC 2.0 can be seen. The data is shown using a Mollweide projection, and uses the Galactic coordinate system.

The color scale is chosen to cover the CSC 1.1 range (that is, the CSC 1.1 catalog has a maximum of close to 3000 sources in a single pixel of this projection), whilst the CSC 2.0 catalog reaches a maximum of around 8000 sources. The pixel scheme used is a hierarchical tesselation (using the HEALPix scheme), and the pixels are larger than a Chandra stack, and so appears to over-estimate the sky coverage of the CSC 2.0.

Observation Stacking

Exploiting the unique resolution and very low background of Chandra data, the limiting sensitivity of the catalog was improved significantly by stacking (co-adding) multiple observations of the same field prior to source detection. This is a significant departure from CSC 1.1 where sources were detected in each observation separately and their properties combined. To minimize the impact of the variation of the Chandra point spread function (PSF) across the field, source detection in CSC 2.0 is constrained to run on stacks of observations that have pointings co-located within 60″, and that were obtained using the same instrument (ACIS or HRC-I).

Improved Background Maps

CSC 2.0 uses a new Voronoi-tessellation background tool (mkvtbkg) to create improved background maps prior to source detection. These background maps perform better than those used in earlier releases in regions where the background intensity is changing rapidly (e.g., in areas of extended emission near the centers of galaxies) and at large off-axis angles.

Improved Two-step Compact Source Detection

A new method is used that can reliably detect compact sources down to roughly 5 net counts over much of the field-of-view. Improved background maps (see below) allow compact source detection in areas with diffuse emission and near the edge of fields. As for CSC 1.1, source detection is performed first using the CIAO wavelet source detection tool (wavdetect), but in CSC 2.0 the tool parameters are updated to identify fainter candidate detections, albeit with an unacceptably high false detection rate. Candidate compact detections superimposed on regions with bright extended emission are identified as a side-effect of running the mkvtbkg tool (in CSC 1.1, these regions were excluded from the catalog).

The combined set of candidate detections are further evaluated by a second step in processing (new to CSC 2.0). A new maximum likelihood estimator (mle) uses the Sherpa modeling and fitting package to fit the local, energy band dependent PSF model to each candidate detection to evaluate the likelihood that the detection is real. Candidate detections included in the CSC 2.0 are classified as either TRUE or MARGINAL in the catalog, by comparing their likelihood estimates with a pair of thresholds that calibrate the permissible false detection rates.

Improved PSF Modeling

Since the Chandra PSF is highly position dependent, the local PSF model is calculated separately for each energy band for each detection position prior to use by the mle tool. Fitting the local PSF to the photon splash of the detection improves source astrometry, particularly for larger off-axis angles where PSF asymmetries can bias centroid-based position determinations. Each PSF model includes ~50,000 counts, which is adequate for many types of studies.

Inclusion of Bright Extended Sources

In addition to background determination and identification of candidate compact detections, mkvtbkg can identify regions of extended emission. This capability allows bright, extended sources to be included in the CSC for the first time. Such sources are identified using bounding convex hull polygons in release 2.0 of the catalog. However, sets of quasi-surface brightness polygons with multiple intensity thresholds are available (as FITS format data products) for end users who wish to perform more detailed analysis of detected extended sources. Extended sources are considered to be an "alpha" release in CSC 2.0, and may not satisfy the same rigorous level of quality assurance that the compact sources meet.

Better Handling of Edge Effects

Statistical characterization of CSC 1.1 concluded that there was a significantly higher false source rate for detections near the edges of the (stacked) fied-of-view, in the gaps between ACIS back-illuminated and front-illuminated CCDs (on the ACIS-S array), and on readout streaks associated with saturated, bright sources, compared to the rest of the field. Detections in such regions are excluded from CSC 2.0 through the application of a pixel mask that removes those pixels from consideration.

Improved Limiting Sensitivity Information

CSC 2.0 includes multi-band limiting sensitivity maps so that users can identify regions that are included in/excluded from the catalog. The limiting sensitivity for a point source to satisfy the catalog TRUE or MARGINAL detection thresholds in each energy band are computed on a fine-grained (~3.22″×3.22″) scale (c.f. ~30″×30″ scale for CSC 1.1).

Improved Evaluation of Source and Detection Properties

Like earlier releases, CSC 2.0 includes numerous raw measurements for each detected source as well as scientifically useful properties derived from the observations in which the source is detected. All reported measurements and properties have associated two-sided confidence intervals.

Detection properties are provided at both the stacked-observation detection level and the per-observation detection level in CSC 2.0. The stacked-observation level allows composite properties to be reported from the co-added observations for detections that would otherwise not be visible or have poor S/N in individual observations, while for higher S/N detections the per-observation properties facilitate analysis of variable sources.

In CSC 2.0, reported positions include 95% error ellipses for brighter sources and circular errors for faint sources. Multi-band aperture photometry will be determined using an updated Bayesian approach to compute photometric probability density functions that are subsequently used directly for computing such quantities as cross-band hardness ratios and temporal variability measures. This avoids some inconsistencies present in CSC 1.1 where these properties were computed independently. If a source is detected in one or more stacked-observations, photometric upper limits that are useful for temporal variability analyses are calculated for any stacked-observations and individual observations in which the source is not detected.

CSC 2.0 uses a Bayesian Blocks analysis to identify multiple detections of the same source that have consistent multi-band aperture photometry. Such detections are analyzed simultaneously to improve S/N when determining detection properties. The properties for the longest exposure Bayesian Block are promoted to master source properties, but the properties for all blocks are recorded in an end-user FITS format data product.

Spectral fits computed using multiple models (e.g., absorbed power-law, black body, and—new in CSC 2.0—bremsstrahlung) are provided for brighter sources. The minimum counts required to compute spectral fits remains 150 counts, same as CSC 1.1, but the analysis now includes simultaneous fits to multiple detections of the same source totaling at least 150 counts.

Additional Data Products

In addition to the tabulated properties, CSC 2.0 provides numerous FITS format data products that are immediately usable for further analysis. These products include full field event lists, multi-band images, exposure maps, limiting sensitivity maps, merged source lists, and extended source polygons. Source region data products include per-source-region event lists, multi-band images, exposure maps, pulse-invariant spectra, spectral response matrices, aperture photometry probability density functions, Bayesian block properties, position-error MCMC draws, and optimally-binned light curves.