Articles | Volume 15, issue 7
Research article
01 Apr 2015
Research article |  | 01 Apr 2015

OH populations and temperatures from simultaneous spectroscopic observations of 25 bands

S. Noll, W. Kausch, S. Kimeswenger, S. Unterguggenberger, and A. M. Jones

Abstract. OH rotational temperatures are widely used to derive mesopause temperatures and their variations. Since most data sets are only based on a fixed set of lines of a single band, it is important to know possible systematic uncertainties related to the choice of lines. Therefore, a comprehensive study of as many OH bands as possible is desirable. For this purpose, astronomical echelle spectrographs at large telescopes are the most suitable instruments. They offer a wide wavelength coverage, relatively high spectral resolution, and high sensitivity. Moreover, since each ground-based astronomical observation has an imprint of the Earth's atmosphere, the data archives of large astronomical facilities are a treasure for atmospheric studies. For our project, we used archival data of the medium-resolution X-shooter echelle spectrograph operated by the European Southern Observatory at Cerro Paranal in Chile. The instrument can simultaneously observe all OH bands that are accessible from ground. We reduced and analysed a set of 343 high-quality spectra taken between 2009 and 2013 to measure OH line intensities and to derive rotational and vibrational temperatures of 25 bands between 0.58 and 2.24 μm. We studied the influence of the selected line set, OH band, upper vibrational level v′, and the molecular data on the derived level populations and temperatures. The rotational temperature results indicate differences by several degrees depending on the selection. The temperatures for bands of even and odd v′ show deviations which increase with v′. A study of the temporal variations revealed that the nocturnal variability pattern changes for v′ from 2 to 9. In particular, the spread of temperatures tends to increase during the night, and the time of the minimum temperature depends on v′. The vibrational temperatures depend on the range of v′ used for their determination, since the higher vibrational levels from 7 to 9 seem to be overpopulated compared to the lower levels. The vibrational temperature tends to increase during the night, while the intensity decreases. Our results support the assumption that the OH emission altitude depends on v′. Moreover, the emission layer appears to rise in the course of the night, which makes the OH thermalisation less efficient. The derived rotational temperatures and their change with v′ seem to be significantly affected by non-equilibrium populations.

Short summary
We discuss a high-quality data set of simultaneous observations of 25 OH bands with an astronomical echelle spectrograph. These data allowed us to analyse band-dependent OH populations and temperatures. In particular, we could find different non-LTE contributions to OH rotational temperatures depending on band, line set, and observing time. This is critical for mesopause studies that use these temperatures as a proxy of the true temperatures.
Final-revised paper