Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) is the most used instrument on board the Hubble Space Telescope. Providing a broad range of high quality imaging capabilities from 200 to 1700mn using Silicon CCD and HgCdTe IR detectors, WFC3 is fulfilling both our expectations and its formal requirements. With the re-establishment of the observatory level "spatial scan" capability, we have extended the scientific potential ofWFC3 in multiple directions. These controlled scans, often in combination with low resolution slit-less spectroscopy, enable extremely high precision differential photometric measurements of transiting exo-planets and direct measurement of sources considerably brighter than originally anticipated. In addition, long scans permit the measurement of the separation of star images to accuracies approaching 25 micro-arc seconds (a factor of 10 better than prior FGS or imaging measurements) enables direct parallax observations out to 4 kilo-parsecs. In addition, we have employed this spatial scan capability to both assess and improve the mid spatial frequency flat field calibrations.
WFC3 uses a Teledyne HgCdTe 1014xl014 pixel Hawaii-lR infrared detector array developed for this mission. One aspect of this detector with implications for many types of science observations is the localized trapping of charge. This manifests itself as both image persistence lasting several hours and as an apparent response variation with photon arrival rate over a large dynamic range. Beyond a generally adopted observing strategy of obtaining multiple observations with small spatial offsets, we have developed a multi-parameter model that accounts for source flux, accumulated signal level, and decay time to predict image persistence at the pixel level. Using a running window through the entirety of the acquired data, we now provide observers with predictions for each individual exposure within several days of its acquisition.
Ongoing characterization of the sources on infrared background and the causes of its temporal and spatial variation has led to the appreciation of the impact of He I 1.083 micron emission from the earth's atmosphere. This adds a significant and variable background to the two filters and two grisms which include this spectral feature when the HST spacecraft is outside of the earth's shadow.
After nearly five years in orbit, long term trending of the scientific and engineering behavior of WFC3 demonstrates excellent stability other than the expected decline in CCD charge transfer efficiency. Addition of post-flash signal to images is shown to markedly improve the transfer efficiency for low level signals. Combined with a pixel based correction algorithm developed at STScl, CCD performance is stabilized at levels only slightly degraded from its initial values.