On the detection of artefacts in spectro-astrometry


E-mail: e.brannigan@star.herts.ac.uk


We demonstrate that artificial bipolar structure can be detected using spectro-astrometry when the point spread function (PSF) of a point source suffers distortion in a relatively wide slit. Spectro-astrometry is a technique which allows us to probe the spatial structure of astronomical sources on milliarcsec (mas) scales making it possible to detect close binaries and to study the geometry and kinematics of outflowing gas on scales much smaller than the seeing or the diffraction limit of the telescope. It is demonstrated that a distorted PSF, caused by tracking errors of the telescope or unstable active optics during an exposure, can induce artificial signals which may be misinterpreted as a real spectro-astrometric signal. Using simulations, we show that these may be minimized by using a narrow slit relative to the seeing. Spectra should be obtained at antiparallel slit position angles (e.g. 0° and 180°) for comparison in order to allow artificial signatures to be identified.