Simulating a user-defined CCD spectrum with ACIS

The purpose of this example is to show how to use marx to simulate an ACIS observation of a point source with a user-specified spectrum. For simplicity, suppose that we wish to simulate a 3000 ksec observation of an on-axis point source whose spectrum is represented by an absorbed powerlaw, with a spectral index of 1.8, and a column density of 10^22 atoms/cm^2. The normalization of the powerlaw will be set to 0.001 photons/keV/cm^2/s at 1 keV. The large exposure time was chosen to illustrate the consistency of the marx ray trace with that of the underlying calibration data.

Creating the spectral file

The first step is to create a 2-column text file that tabulates the flux [photons/sec/keV/cm^2] (second column) as a function of energy [keV] (first column). The easiest way to create such a file is to make use of a spectral modeling program such as ISIS, Sherpa or XSpec. The rest of this tutorial is given in the context of ISIS.

In ISIS the absorbed powerlaw model is specified using:

isis> fit_fun("phabs(1)*powerlaw(1)");
isis> set_par(1, 1);
isis> set_par(2, 0.001);
isis> set_par(3, 1.8);
isis> save_par ("plaw.p");
isis> list_par;

The model parameters lists by ISIS should look like this:

phabs(1)*powerlaw (1)
 idx  param             tie-to  freeze         value         min         max
  1  phabs(1).nH            0     0                1           0      100000  10^22
  2  powerlaw(1).norm       0     0            0.001           0        0.01
  3  powerlaw(1).PhoIndex   0     0              1.8           1           3

The next step is to convert the parameter file plaw.p to the spectrum file that marx expects. The marxflux script may be used to create a file called plawflux.tbl in the appropriate format via:

marxflux -e '[0.3:12.0:0.003]' plaw.p plawflux.tbl

This script requires ISIS to be installed and linked to at least version 2.1 of the S-Lang library. (For XSpec users, marx is distributed with a script called xspec2marx that may be used to create such a file, and Sherpa users find instructions here: ).

The plawflux.tbl file is input to marx using the following marx.par parameters:


The SpectrumType parameter is set to FILE to indicate that marx is to read the spectrum from the file specified by the SpectrumFile parameter. The SourceFlux parameter may be used to indicate the integrated flux of the spectrum. The value of -1 as given above means that the integrated flux is to be taken from the file.

Running marx

The next step is to run marx in the desired configuration. Some prefer to use tools such as pset to update the marx.par file and then run marx. Here, the parameters will be explicitly passed to marx via the command line:

marx SourceFlux=-1 SpectrumType="FILE" SpectrumFile="plawflux.tbl" \
   ExposureTime=3000000 TStart=2012.5 \
   OutputDir=plaw GratingType="NONE" DetectorType="ACIS-S" \
   DitherModel="INTERNAL" RA_Nom=30 Dec_Nom=40 Roll_Nom=50 \
   SourceRA=30 SourceDEC=40 \
   Verbose=yes mode=h

This will run the simulation and place the results in a subdirectory called plaw. The results may be converted to a standard Chandra level-2 fits file by the marx2fits program:

marx2fits plaw plaw_evt2.fits

The resulting fits file plaw_evt2.fits may be further processed with standard CIAO tools. As some of these tools require the aspect history, the marxasp program will be used to create an aspect solution file that matches the simulation:

marxasp MarxDir="plaw" OutputFile="plaw_asol1.fits"

Creating CIAO-based ARFs and RMFs for MARX Simulations

Armed with the simulated event file plaw_evt2.fits and the aspect solution file plaw_asol1.fits, a PHA file, ARF and RMF may be made using the standard CIAO tools. First, extract the PHA data. The asphist CIAO tool may be used to create an aspect histogram from an aspect solution file, as seen in this Bourne shell script:

# Extraction region parameters: circle of radius R at (X,Y)



asphist infile="$asolfile" outfile="$asphistfile" evtfile="$evtfile" \
  verbose=1 mode=h clobber=yes

dmextract infile="$evtfile[sky=Circle($X,$Y,$R)][bin $phagrid]" \
  outfile="$phafile" verbose=1 mode=h clobber=yes

While marx strives to accurately model of the Chandra Observatory, there are some differences that need to be taken into account when processing marx generated data with CIAO. As described in Current caveats for MARX page, marx does not incorporate the non-uniformity maps for the ACIS detector, nor does it employ the spatially varying CTI-corrected pha redistribution matrices (RMFs). As such there will be systematic differences between the marx ACIS effective area and that of the mkarf CIAO tool when run in its default mode. Similarly, the mapping from energy to pha by marx will be different from that predicted by mkacisrmf.

Creating an ARF to match a marx simulation

As mentioned above, marx does not implement the ACIS QE uniformity maps. The following commands show how to set the mkarf parameters to produce an ARF that is consistent with the marx effective area (this continues the Bourne shell script from the last paragraph):

# Select a CCD.

# For ACIS-I, use engrid="0.3:11.0:0.003". This reflects a limitation of mkrmf.

mkarf mirror="hrma" detsubsys="$detname" grating="$grating" \
  outfile="$arffile" \
  obsfile="$evtfile" engrid="$engrid" asphistfile="$asphistfile" \
  sourcepixelx=$X sourcepixely=$Y \
  maskfile=NONE pbkfile=NONE dafile=NONE \
  verbose=1 mode=h clobber=yes

Notice the settings detsubsys="ACIS-7;uniform;bpmask=0" and maskfile=NONE pbkfile=NONE dafile=NONE that are different from the way a normal Chandra observation would be processed.

Creating an RMF to match a marx simulation

marx maps energies to phas using the FEF gaussian parametrization utilized by the mkrmf CIAO tool. The newer mkacisrmf tool uses a more complicated convolution model that does not appear to permit a fast, memory-efficient random number generation algorithm that marx would require. In contrast, a gaussian-distributed random number generator is all that is required to produce pha values that are consistent with mkrmf generated responses.

The Chandra CALDB includes several FEF files. The one that marx currently employs is acisD2000-01-29fef_phaN0005.fits, and is located in the $CALDB/data/chandra/acis/cpf/fefs/ directory. This file must be specified as the infile mkrmf parameter.

For a point source simulation, look at the marx2fits generated event file and find the average chip coordinates. The CIAO dmstat tool may be used for this purpose. The CCD_ID and the mean chip coordinates are important for the creation of the filter that will be passed to mkrmf to select the appropriate FEF tile. For simplicity suppose that the mean point source detector location is at (308,494) on ACIS-7. Then run mkrmf using (continuing the shell script form above):

# Mean chip position


mkrmf infile="$fef[ccd_id=$ccdid,$cxfilter,$cyfilter]" \
  outfile="$rmffile" axis1="energy=$engrid" \
  axis2="$phagrid" thresh=1e-8 mode=h clobber=yes verbose=1

Notice, how the FEF file is set explicitly to fef="$CALDB/data/chandra/acis/cpf/fefs/acisD2000-01-29fef_phaN0005.fits" and that the correct tile of that FEF file is chosen with fef[ccd_id=7,chipx_hi>=221,chipx_lo<=221,chipy_hi>=532,chipy_lo<=532]

See the CIAO threads for other ways of running mkrmf. The important thing is to specify the correct FEF and tile.

Analyzing the simulated data

The PHA, ARF, and RMF files may be used in a spectral modelling program such as ISIS to see whether or not one can reach the desired science goal from the simulated observation. For this example, the goal is to verify that the marx simulation is consistent with the input spectrum. To this end, ISIS will be used to fit an absorbed powerlaw to the pha spectrum. The figure below showing the resulting fit was created via the following ISIS script:

isis> load_dataset ("plaw_pha.fits", "plaw_rmf.fits", "plaw_arf.fits");
isis> rebin_data (1, 30);
isis> xnotice_en (1, 0.3, 11);
isis> fit_fun("phabs(1)*powerlaw(1)");
isis> set_par(1,1,1);
isis> fit_counts;
isis> list_par;
isis> plot_open("");
isis> xrange(0.3,11);
isis> rplot_counts (1);
isis> plot_close ();

This script produced the following parameter values with a reduced chi-square of 1.2:

 Parameters[Variable] = 3[2]
            Data bins = 600
           Chi-square = 722.847
   Reduced chi-square = 1.208774
 idx  param             tie-to  freeze         value         min         max
  1  phabs(1).nH            0     1                1           0      100000  10^22
  2  powerlaw(1).norm       0     0      0.001003397           0       1e+10
  3  powerlaw(1).PhoIndex   0     0         1.826904          -2           9

The rplot_counts may be used to produce a plot of the resulting fit.

Plot of the spectrum

The residuals show that the model is systematically high for some energies. The reason for this can be traced back to energy-dependent scattering where photons are scattered outside the extraction region. The CIAO effective area does not include this loss factor, and as a result, this omission appears in the residuals. This effect is apparant because of the enormous number of counts in this simulation.

Simulating pile-up in an ACIS CCD spectrum

The purpose of this example is to show how to to use the marxpileup program to simulate the effects of pileup. It is a post-processor that performs a frame-by-frame analysis of an existing marx simulation. We continue the example from above, where the spectrum had a somewhat large normalization to ensure that pileup would occur.

Creating an event file with pile-up

marxpileup can be run on the eventfile generated by marx using:

marxpileup MarxOutputDir=plaw

This will create a directory called plaw/pileup/ and place the pileup results there. It also writes a brief summary to the display resembling:

Total Number Input: 770961
Total Number Detected: 482771
Efficiency: 6.261938e-01

This shows that because of pileup, nearly 40 percent of the events were lost.

The next step is to run marx2fits to create a corresponding level-2 file called plaw_pileup_evt2.fits.

marx2fits --pileup plaw/pileup plaw_pileup_evt2.fits

Since this is a pileup simulation, the --pileup flag was passed to marx2fits.

In this case we can use the same ARF and RMF as above. However, it is necessary to create a new PHA file from the plaw_pileup_evt2.fits event file. For analyzing a piled observation of a near on-axis point source, it is recommended that the extraction region have a radius of 4 ACIS tangent plane pixels. A Bourne shell script that runs dmextract to produce the PHA file plaw_pileup_pha.fits is

Analyzing the simulated data

As before, ISIS will be used to analyze the piled spectrum.

load_dataset ("plaw_pileup_pha.fits", "plaw_rmf.fits", "plaw_arf.fits");
rebin_data (1, 30);
xnotice_en (1, 0.3, 11.0);
set_par (1, 1, 1);                     %  freeze nH

The fit produces a rather large chi-square per dof of more than 7.5:

 Parameters[Variable] = 3[2]
            Data bins = 659
           Chi-square = 4946.838
   Reduced chi-square = 7.529434
 idx  param             tie-to  freeze         value         min         max
  1  phabs(1).nH            0     1                1           0      100000  10^22
  2  powerlaw(1).norm       0     0     0.0004742587           0       1e+10
  3  powerlaw(1).PhoIndex   0     0         1.593586          -2           9

Note also that the parameters are different from the power-law parameters that went into the simulation. For example, the normalization is less than half of what was expected, and the powerlaw index is somewhat low compared to the expected value of 1.8. In fact, the conf function shows that the 99 percent confidence interval on the powerlaw index is from 1.59 to 1.62.

Suspecting that this observation suffers from pileup, we enable the ISIS pileup kernel, which introduces a few additional parameters:

set_kernel (1, "pileup");

which gives:

 idx  param             tie-to  freeze         value         min         max
  1  phabs(1).nH            0     1                1           0      100000  10^22
  2  powerlaw(1).norm       0     0     0.0004742587           0       1e+10
  3  powerlaw(1).PhoIndex   0     0         1.593586          -2           9
  4  pileup(1).nregions     0     1                1           1          10
  5  pileup(1).g0           0     1                1           0           1
  6  pileup(1).alpha        0     0              0.5           0           1
  7  pileup(1).psffrac      0     1             0.95           0           1

Given the fact that the PSF fraction varies with off-axis angle and spectral shape, we will allow it to vary during the fit:

thaw (7);

As before, the fit_counts command may be used to compute the best fit parameters. However, the parameter space in the context of the pileup kernel is very complex with many local minima, even for a function as simple as an absorbed powerlaw. For this reason it is strongly recommended that pileup fits be performed many times with different initial values for the parameters to better explore the parameter space. The easiest way to do this in ISIS is to use the fit_search function, which randomly samples the parameter space by choosing parameter values uniformly distributed between their minimum and maximum parameter values. Before starting, let’s set the powerlaw normalization’s maximum value to something reasonable:

set_par (2; max=0.01);

The above produces:

 idx  param             tie-to  freeze         value         min         max
  1  phabs(1).nH            0     1                1           0      100000  10^22
  2  powerlaw(1).norm       0     0     0.0004742587           0        0.01
  3  powerlaw(1).PhoIndex   0     0         1.593586          -2           9
  4  pileup(1).nregions     0     1                1           1          10
  5  pileup(1).g0           0     1                1           0           1
  6  pileup(1).alpha        0     0              0.5           0           1
  7  pileup(1).psffrac      0     0             0.95           0           1

The next step is to use fit_search to perform the minimization. Here we will explore the parameter space by having fit_search run the fit_counts function at 100 randomly sampled locations. It should be noted that ISIS will run a number of the fits in parallel by distributing the computations across the available CPU cores.

s = fit_search (100, &fit_counts);

This gives:

 Parameters[Variable] = 7[4]
            Data bins = 659
           Chi-square = 751.8835
   Reduced chi-square = 1.147914
 idx  param             tie-to  freeze         value         min         max
  1  phabs(1).nH            0     1                1           0      100000  10^22
  2  powerlaw(1).norm       0     0     0.0007544917           0        0.01
  3  powerlaw(1).PhoIndex   0     0         1.790701          -2           9
  4  pileup(1).nregions     0     1                1           1          10
  5  pileup(1).g0           0     1                1           0           1
  6  pileup(1).alpha        0     0        0.4686956           0           1
  7  pileup(1).psffrac      0     0         0.775919           0           1

We see that the reduced chi-square is near what one would expect for a good fit and that the powerlaw index is very close to the expected value. We can use the conf function to obtain its confidence interval:


This indicates that the 90 percent confidence interval on the powerlaw index to be between 1.78 and 1.80.

The powerlaw normalization may appears to be a bit lower than expected. For a near on-axis point source, the 2 arc-second radius extraction region used contains roughly 90 percent of the flux. Hence the expected powerlaw normalization should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.0009. However, it is much less constrained, as can be seen by computing its 90 percent confidence interval, which runs from from 0.006 to 0.003.

Here is a plot of the resulting fit, as produced by the rplot_counts function:

Plot of the pile-up spectrum. Model and data fit well now.

Plot of the pileup spectrum