We investigate a new metric, the normalized point source sensitivity (PSSN), for characterizing the seeing-limited performance of large telescopes. As the PSSN metric is directly related to the photometric error of background limited observations, it represents the efficiency loss in telescope observing time. The PSSN metric properly accounts for the optical consequences of wave front spatial frequency distributions due to different error sources, which differentiates from traditional metrics such as the 80% encircled energy diameter and the central intensity ratio. We analytically show that multiplication of individual PSSN values due to individual errors is a good approximation for the total PSSN when various errors are considered simultaneously. We also numerically confirm this feature for Zernike aberrations as well as for the numerous error sources considered in the error budget of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) using a ray optics simulator. Additionally, we discuss other pertinent features of the PSSN, including its relations to Zernike aberration, RMS wave front error, and central intensity ratio.
© 2009 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: June 1, 2009
Revised Manuscript: September 28, 2009
Manuscript Accepted: September 30, 2009
Published: October 27, 2009
Byoung-Joon Seo, Carl Nissly, George Angeli, Brent Ellerbroek, Jerry Nelson, Norbert Sigrist, and Mitchell Troy, "Analysis of normalized point source sensitivity as a performance metric for large telescopes," Appl. Opt. 48, 5997-6007 (2009)