VIRUS IFU Layout, Target Placement, and Dithering/Tiling

Here we describe:

  • VIRUS IFU layout on the sky (configuration is evolving)

  • How to place your targets on VIRUS IFUs

  • Dithering vs Tiling and sky coverage

VIRUS IFU layout

The image below show the layout of the VIRUS fiber bundles among the VIRUS units above the corrector.
Light blue squares are the VIRUS fiber bundles. Other bundles (LRS2B, HPF, etc) are located within the red square in the center. Not all VIRUS fiber bundles are connected to IFUs yet.

As new IFUs are brought to the telescope, the distribution of active fiber bundles is changing. Shown below is a (modified) view of the IFU distribution before in early 2019. Note that the IFUs are NOT contiguous on the sky! The individual IFUs are magnified 2x here. If you need contiguous sky coverage, see the following information about tiling VIRUS observations.

How to place your target on a VIRUS IFU

The on-sky IFU positions are named using 3 digit code (2-digit COLUMN and 1-digit ROW), as indicated on the images above. For example the IFU in column 10 and row 3 would be IFU 103 and the IFU in column 2 and row 1 would be IFU 021. The center of the focal plane (referred to as the "IHMP") is referred to as IFU 000, and is the default position for VIRUS targets unless otherwise specified.

When you submit a TSL file in Phase II, you may specify the IFU which should contain your target. This is done using the TSL keyword VIFU, e.g., VIFU 046. You may want to consider the current status/quality of various IFUs before requesting observations with a specific unit -- see this page for more up-to-date details:

The CCD for each VIRUS IFU is read out by four separate amplifiers, which are arranged internally in quadrants (right-upper, right-lower, left-upper, left-lower), but correspond to rectangular regions on the sky, as shown below:
The x,y coordinate system (shown in blue) is in units of arcseconds, with its origin at the center of that IFU. When you request a given IFU, the default position is (0,7), or centered within the RL amplifier.

You can request a different offset position with the TSL keywords offsetx, offsety, which are given in arcseconds. For example, if you wanted to observe a star on the LL amplifier of IFU in slot 046, you would include these settings in your TSL file:


Dithering and Tiling VIRUS observations

By default, VIRUS observations are taken in a 3-point dither pattern, moving approximately ~1.5" between each position. This dithering fills in the gaps between fibers in each IFU, but does not fill in the gaps between IFUs. If you want complete sky coverage, you must tile multiple dithered observations together to fill in the gaps between IFUs.

Tiling VIRUS observations is not difficult, but first requires determining the parallactic angle(s) for the observations of your target. The focal plane is rotated to be aligned with the parallactic angle for each target, so the rotation relative to North will be different for each target. This angle will determine what offsets are required to tile multiple observations to fill in the gaps between IFUs (note that the parallactic angle will be different for a target observed on its Eastern track compared to its Western track).

If you have access to TACC and a modicum of bravery, you can run the "shuffle" code yourself to determine the parallactic angle(s) at which your target will be observed. Here are the basic steps (borrowed from one of Karl's webpages about VIRUS):

  • Log in to TACC
  • In an empty directory, run shuffle_config to generate config files
  • Copy over the latest fplane file (ask if you don't know where to find it)
  • run: do_shuffle -v RA DEC rad_off east/west IFU ra_offset dec_offset Name
    • RA in decimal hours
    • Dec in decimal degrees
    • rad_off is not used, so use "0"
    • east/west is 0 for east and 1 for west
    • IFU is the position on the sky, like 046 or 000
    • ra_offset,dec_offset are in arcsecond, relative to specified RA,Dec (probably both 0 for most applications)
    • Name is a target name, used for output
  • Locate and view the output file shout.result to get the RA,Dec of focal plane center and the Parallactic Angle (5th column in that file).
Once you have the Parallactic Angle, you can generate the positions of the 4 observations required to fully tile the sky. This style of tiling will suffice:
    • nominal pointing (first position)
    • offset +100" in the direction of the parallactic angle (second)
    • offset +100" perpendicular to the parallactic angle (third)
    • offset -100" in the direction of the parallactic angle (fourth)

When generating tiled VIRUS observations remember well that the East and West tracks will have different PAs and will require different positions to fully tile the sky. When you submit your TSL files for these observations you will want to specify an azimuth restriction of AZRES=E for East-only observations (or AZRES=W for West-only observations).

Please contact your friendly Resident Astronomer if you have any questions and to verify that your target submission is correct: astronomer(at)

Last updated: Sun, 14 Apr 2019 00:12:51 -0500 stevenj


The Telescope

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Object Observability




LRS2 Summary

LRS2 Details

LRS2 Fiber Layout and Position Angle

LRS2 Throughput

LRS2 Observing details


VIRUS - Summary

VIRUS - Misc details

VIRUS - Throughput and sensitivity

VIRUS - IFU Layout and Target Placement

Habitable Zone Planet Finder (HPF)

HPF Details

HPF Throughput and Exposure Meter

HPF Data Reductions


HRS-2 Summary

HRS-2 Details

HRS-2 configurations

HRS-2 exposure meter

HRS-2 Position Angle and Fiber layout

HRS-2 Throughput

Old Instruments

LRS - old

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