IRCS polarimetry

Linear polarimetry with IRCS and AO188 is available in two settings (near-infrared [NIR] 0.95−2.5μm and thermal-infrared [TIR] 1.92−4.16μm), which are currently offered on a shared-risk basis. TIR setting is newly opened from S18A semester only up to L-band, while it is planned to expand into M'-band in near future. Please contact to Tae-Soo Pyo ( and Hiroshi Terada ( for more detailed information about performance limitations in case you plan to use the polarimetry with IRCS.

Basic Specification

  NIR (0.95−2.5μm)
  TIR (1.92−4.16μm)
Imaging Polarimetry
Imaging Polarimetry
Y, J, H, K, K'
zJH (R~705λ w/0.10'' slit)
HK (R~442λ w/0.10'' slit)
K, K', L'
K (R~869λ w/0.10'' slit)
L (R~331λ w/0.10'' slit)
Pixel Scale
20 mas / 52 mas
 52 mas only
20 mas only
 52 mas only
FoV of  Mask/Slit

20 mas: 2 Strips of
   4.4'' (W) X 21'' (L)
52 mas: 4 Strips of
  4.4'' (W) X 54'' (L)
0.60'' (W) X 4.4'' (L)
0.15'' (W) X 4.4'' (L)
0.10'' (W) X 4.4'' (L)
0.225'' (W) X 4.4'' (L)
K, K': 2 Strips of
  4.4'' (W) X 21'' (L)
L': 2 Strips of
  4.0'' (W) X 21'' (L)
0.60'' (W) X 4.0'' (L)
0.15'' (W) X 4.0'' (L)
0.10'' (W) X 4.0'' (L)
0.225'' (W) X 4.0'' (L)
Quartz + MgF2 half-wave plate
LiNbO3 + MgF2 half-wave plate
LiNbO3 Wollaston prism

Exposure Time Guide Line

  The limiting magnitudes of polarimetry observation are generally 5-7 mag brighter than the corresponding non-polarimetry observation (i.e., normal spectroscopy or imaging). The signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) on the flux (not per waveplate position) required to obtain a polarization accuracy of dP is estimated by: S/N = sqrt(2)/(dP x Peff), where Peff is the polarization efficiency. For example, to obtain the polarization accuracy (dP) of 0.5 %, S/N is required about 283 in total when Peff ~ 1 (i.e. 100 %). In addition, for thermal infrared observation, the background noise is significantly increased due to the warm wave-plate and the sensitivity will be degraded. For dP = 0.5 % with 1 hr exposure, the estimated sensitivities are Y~20 mag, J~20.9 mag, H~20.2 mag, K~19.7 mag, and L'~14.7 mag for imaging polarimetry and zJH~13.1 mag/arcsec2(J) | 12.2 mag/arcsec2 (H), HK~12.3 mag/arcsec2(H) | 11.6 mag/arcsec2(K), K~11.0 mag/arcsec2, and L~6.2 mag/arcsec2 for spectropolarimetry (per pixel) when Peff = 100 %. These values do not include the instrumental polarization uncertainty. Please contact to Tae-Soo Pyo (pyo(at) for more detailed information.

Polarization efficiency  and Instrumental  Polarization

Polarization efficiency

The polarization efficiency strongly depends on AO188 image rotator angle and wavelength as shown in the figure below. The both imaging and spectroscopy polarimetry modes should be operated around 0 degree or 90 degree of the image rotator. This restriction limits a range of the field position angle.

Imaging polarimetry mode

The Polarization Efficiency of imaging polarimetry
(Measurement: Telescope flat lamp + WPU Polarizer + each filter. No correction of degree of polarization of the polarizer.)

Spectropolarimetry mode

The Polarization Efficiency
 (Measurement: Telescope flat lamp + WPU Polarizer + each grism. No correction of degree of polarization of the polarizer. )

Instrumental polarization

From an unpolarized starndard star measurement in NIR setting, most instrumental polarization is found to be due to the tertiary mirror.
Instrumental Polarization
                            (Measurement with the unpolarized standard star WD0232+035. This is a preliminary result.) )

Dependency of Instrumental polarization with pointing
                    (Position angle of instrumental polarization = the parallactic angle + 90 degrees)

Also in TIR setting, the instrumental polarization is confirmed to be well below 1% with the following measurements with unpolarized standard stars (HD 154892, HD 162208, HD203856, and HD 331891).

Instrumental Polarization

Imaging Polarimetry

Y-, J-, H-, K-, and K'-band in NIR setting and K-, K'-, and L'-band in TIR setting are available for imaging polarimetry.
PDI (Polarimetric Differential Imaging) function is not fully characterized and its performantce has not been verified yet. Please note the lateral chromatism of the Wollaston prism affects the PDI performance particularly at L'-band.

Layout of imaging polarimetry

Layout of Imaging Polarimetry

The FoV layout for imaging polarimetry are shown in the figure above. Please be advised that the FoV is overlapped at L'-band where the data is unusable.

Polarization Mask  Polarimetry Mask (Tungsten carbide with gold coating)


zJH- and HK-Grism modes in NIR setting and K- and L-Grism modes in TIR setting are available for spectropolarimetry.

Layout of spectropolarimetry

Layout of Spectropolarimealtry
In L-Grism mode of TIR setting, the FoV is overlapped. The usable area is 4.0''.

Polarimetry Slit Polarimetry Slit (Tungsten carbide with gold coating)

Observation  Procedures and Strategy 

The followings are the typical polarimetry observation procedures. Please note, however, that the observation procedure to achieve the accurate calibration of the instrument polarization is more complicate and takes more overhead in total observational time. In order to set practical observation procedure and consuming time, users should contact to Tae-Soo Pyo (pyo(at) before the proposal submission.

Standard procedure for linear imaging polarimetry

  1. Point the telescope to the target field.
  2. Take an image with K-band (or Kp-band) of target without Wollaston prism.
  3. Adjust the target position to the acquistion area on the polarimetry mask.
  4. Optimize the AO correction parameters.
  5. Do CheckField to change the optical elements (Filters/Wollaston prism) for observation and check the flux level with an exposure time.
  6. Do GetObject to take images with the following set of different angles of the half-wave plaet (HWP) at each dithering point.
    1. 0.0 deg
    2. 45.0 deg
    3. 22.5 deg
    4. 67.5 deg
  7. Repeat GetObect to get enough S/N.
  8. Do the same thing for calibration targets (unpoliarized and polarized standard stars).
    The default dithering pattern is 3 points dithering along the Y-direction ( 54'' length direction) on the same mask area. If you want to customized the dithering pattern, please contact Tae-Soo Pyo (pyo(at)

Standard procedure for linear spectropolarimetry

  1. Point the telescope to the target field.
  2. Take a K-band (or Kp-band) image of target without Wollaston prism.
  3. Optimize the AO correction parameters
  4. Adjust the target position to the acquisition position on  the polarimetry slit required.
  5. Insert the polarimetry slit and do fine tuning of the target position on the slit.
  6. Do CheckField with zJH or HK grism setting to check the flux lavel with a exposure time.
  7. Do GetObject to take the spectra with the following set of  different angles of  the half-wave plate (HWP) at each nodding point.
    1. 0.0 deg
    2. 45.0 deg
    3. 22.5 deg
    4. 67.5 deg
  8. Repeat GetObject to get enought S/N.
  9. Do the same thing for calibration targets (unpolarized and polarized standard stars).
   The detection efficiency of polariztion degree depends on the angle of the image rotator, so the polarimetry observation will be operated with keeping the image rotator angle around 0 degree or 90 degree.

Unpolarized and polarized standard stars

1) UKIRT Polarized and Unpolarized Standard Stars
2) Polarimetric Standard Stars for MIMIR
3) Polarimetric Standard Stars for ISAAC
4) Whittet et al. (1992) : U to K 105 stars

The waveplate unit for retarders were originally prepared by the HiCIAO team and it is now commonly shared with IRCS and AO188. The IRCS polarimetry upgrade was proceeded in collaboration with Dr. Makoto Watanabe at Okayama University of Science and the retarder in TIR setting was provided by Dr. Mitsuhiko Honda at Kurume University.
Questions regarding polarimetry mode of IRCS should be directed to Tae-Soo Pyo (pyo(at) and Hiroshi Terada (terada(at) Please note that all numbers in this page are subject to change as the performance of this mode is better determined.
Updated on 2017-08-07