Spitzer ultra faint survey program (SURFS UP). I. an overview

Maruša Bradač, Russell Ryan, Stefano Casertano, Kuang Han Huang, Brian C. Lemaux, Tim Schrabback, Anthony H. Gonzalez, Steve Allen, Benjamin Cain, Mike Gladders, Nicholas Hall, Hendrik Hildebrandt, Joannah Hinz, Anja Von Der Linden, Lori Lubin, Tommaso Treu, Dennis Zaritsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Spitzer UltRa Faint SUrvey Program is a joint Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescope Exploration Science program using 10 galaxy clusters as cosmic telescopes to study z ≳ 7 galaxies at intrinsically lower luminosities, enabled by gravitational lensing, than blank field surveys of the same exposure time. Our main goal is to measure stellar masses and ages of these galaxies, which are the most likely sources of the ionizing photons that drive reionization. Accurate knowledge of the star formation density and star formation history at this epoch is necessary to determine whether these galaxies indeed reionized the universe. Determination of the stellar masses and ages requires measuring rest-frame optical light, which only Spitzer can probe for sources at z ≳ 7, for a large enough sample of typical galaxies. Our program consists of 550 hr of Spitzer/IRAC imaging covering 10 galaxy clusters with very well-known mass distributions, making them extremely precise cosmic telescopes. We combine our data with archival observations to obtain mosaics with 30 hr exposure time in both 3.6 μm and 4.5 μm in the central 4′ × 4′ field and 15 hr in the flanking fields. This results in 3σ sensitivity limits of 26.6 and 26.2 AB magnitudes for the central field in the IRAC 3.6 and 4.5 μm bands, respectively. To illustrate the survey strategy and characteristics we introduce the sample, present the details of the data reduction and demonstrate that these data are sufficient for in-depth studies of z ≳ 7 sources (using a z = 9.5 galaxy behind MACS J1149.5+2223 as an example). For the first cluster of the survey (the Bullet Cluster) we have released all high-level data mosaics and IRAC empirical point-spread function models. In the future we plan to release these data products for the entire survey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 20 2014


  • dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • galaxies: clusters: individual
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • gravitational lensing: strong

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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