New faint optical spectrophotometric standards: Hot white dwarfs from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Carlos Allende Prieto, Ivan Hubeny, J. Allyn Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The spectral energy distributions for pure-hydrogen (DA) hot white dwarfs can be accurately predicted by model atmospheres. This makes it possible to define spectrophotometric calibrators by scaling the theoretical spectral shapes with broad-band photometric observations - a strategy successfully exploited for the spectrographs onboard the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) using three primary DA standards. Absolute fluxes for non-DA secondary standards, introduced to increase the density of calibrators in the sky, need to be referred to the primary standards, but a far better solution would be to employ a network of DA stars scattered throughout the sky. We search for blue objects in the sixth data release of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and fit DA model fluxes to identify suitable candidates. Reddening needs to be considered in the analysis of many of these stars. We propose a list of nine pure-hydrogen white dwarfs with absolute fluxes with estimated uncertainties below 3 per cent, including four objects with estimated errors <2 per cent, as candidates for spectrophotometric standards in the range 14 < g < 18, and provide model-based fluxes scaled to match the SDSS broad-band fluxes for each. We apply the same method to the three HST DA standards, linking the zero point of their absolute fluxes to ugr magnitudes transformed from photometry obtained with the US Naval Observatory 1-m telescope. For these stars, we estimate uncertainties of <1 per cent in the optical, finding good consistency with the fluxes adopted for HST calibration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-771
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Catalogues
  • Stars: fundamental parameters
  • Techniques: spectroscopic
  • White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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