EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 496, Number 2, March III 2009
Page(s) 557 - 576
Section Astronomical instrumentation
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200810897
Published online 14 January 2009
A&A 496, 557-576 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200810897

Analysis of extremely low signal-to-noise ratio data from INTEGRAL/PICsIT

P. Lubiński1, 2

1  Centrum Astronomiczne im. M. Kopernika, Bartycka 18, 00-716 Warszawa, Poland
2  ISDC Data Centre for Astrophysics, Chemin d'Ecogia 16, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
    e-mail: Piotr.Lubinski@unige.ch

Received 2 September 2008 / Accepted 18 November 2008

Context. The PICsIT detector onboard the INTEGRAL satellite was designed to provide information about emission in the soft $\gamma$-ray band for many bright sources. Due to strong and variable instrumental background, only 4 objects have been detected so far using standard software.
Aims. The moderate sensitivity of PICsIT can be compensated for in the case of many objects by adopting a long exposure time, thanks to INTEGRAL's large field of view and an observing strategy focused on the Galactic plane. With angular resolution far higher than that of all other instruments operating in a similar energy band, PICsIT is suitable for fields too crowded or too significantly affected by Galactic diffuse emission. Therefore, it is desirable to improve the spectral extraction software to both obtain more reliable results and enlarge the number of objects that can be studied.
Methods. The new PICsIT spectral extraction method is based on three elements: careful modelling of the background, an energy-dependent pixel-illumination function, and the computation of the probability density of the source count rate. Background maps of the detector plane are prepared for short periods and relatively narrow energy bands to insure that the background dependence on time and energy is modelled well. The most important element of the new spectral extraction method is the proper treatment of the Poisson-distributed data, developed within a Bayesian framework.
Results. The new method was tested extensively on both a large true data set and simulated data. Results assumed in simulations were reproduced perfectly, without any bias and with high precision. Count rates measured for Crab were far more stable than those obtained with the standard software. For weaker sources, the new method produced spectra of far higher quality and allows us to detect at least 8 additional objects. Comparison with other INTEGRAL instruments demonstrated that PICsIT is well calibrated and provides valuable information about the continuum emission in the 250 keV – 1 MeV band, detectable currently only by INTEGRAL.

Key words: gamma rays: observations -- instrumentation: detectors -- methods: data analysis -- methods: statistical

© ESO 2009