Analysis guide for SPICE data

SPICE is an EUV spectrometer on board the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, which was launched in 2020 February. This page gives a simple guide to getting started with SPICE data using IDL software.

[Jan-2022] SPICE data are now available through the Solar Orbiter Archive (SOAR). You should download the level-2 (L2) files.

Other resources:

UPDATE, 1-Apr-2022: I've transferred this material to the official SPICE data analysis user's manual, hosted at IAS in France. I'm keeping the material below, but it will no longer be updated.

Data products

When browsing the SPICE catalog and archive you will see the following codes:

n-ras: a raster scan with one of the narrow slits (2", 4" or 6")
w-ras: a raster scan with the wide slit (30")
n-sit: a sit-and-stare study with one of the narrow slits
w-sit: a sit-and-stare study with the wide slit
n-exp: a single exposure with a narrow slit that yields the entire spectrum
w-exp: a single exposure with the wide slit that yields the entire spectrum

For the "ras" data, the FITS file contains a single raster scan. If the raster is repeated, then each repeat goes in a new file.

Rasters can be performed in the "exp" mode, but each exposure will end up in a different FITS file.

Environment variables

Choose a location to store your SPICE data (e.g., '/my_data/spice') and then point the environment variable $SPICE_DATA to it:


This line should be added to your IDL_STARTUP file.

Data are organized under $SPICE_DATA with a year/month/day subdirectory structure. See the "Ingesting downloaded data" section below.

The SPICE catalog

The SPICE catalog can be accessed by doing:

IDL> spice_cat

Use the "SPICE_GEN_CAT" button to make sure you have the most up-to-date list.

Reference data-sets

Perhaps the most useful data from the early commissioning phase (before July 2020) are the raster scans on 28-May-2020.

16:05, 16:50 - disk center rasters with 20s exposures
17:50, 18:35 - north limb rasters with 20s exposures
19:35, 20:20 - south limb rasters with 20s exposures
21:20, 22:05 - west limb rasters with 20s exposures
23:05, 23:47 - east limb rasters with 20s exposures

The first true science observations were obtained during 18 to 22 November 2020. For example, an active region can be seen in the raster beginning 19:57 UT on 18-Nov-2020.

Ingesting downloaded data

After you have downloaded some SPICE FITS files, you can ingest them into your data directory with spice_ingest:

IDL> spice_ingest, files

This routine automatically creates the sub-directory structure (year/month/day) within $SPICE_DATA for the files.

Finding and reading a FITS file

Once a file has been ingested, then you can find it with spice_find_file using the observation time:

IDL> file=spice_find_file('28-may-2020 16:05')

A file can be read into an IDL object with:

IDL> d=spice_object(file)

Extracting information from the data object

The table below gives some methods for extracting information out of the data object. Where "i" is given, it means the index of a wavelength window should be specified (indices begin at 0).

You can get a list of all methods by doing:

IDL> d->help

Command Function
d->get_number_windows() No. of spectral windows
d->get_window_data(i,/load) Extract a data window
d->get_lambda_vector(i) Get wavelength vector for the window.
d->get_header(i) Extract a data window header
d->get_window_id(i) Get the data window ID
d->get_start_time() Start time of observation
d->get_end_time() End time of observation
d->get_sit_and_stare() Set to 1 if sit-and-stare observation
d->get_number_exposures() Number of exposures in raster
d->get_xcen(i) Get the X-center for the window
d->get_ycen(i) Get the Y-center for the window

Quicklook tools

A set of five widget-based tools are available for browsing SPICE data, and these can be accessed through spice_xfiles:

IDL> spice_xfiles

This allows you to select a FITS file from your SPICE data directory. A new widget appears from which you can then select one of the five quicklook tools: Detector, Raster Browser, Raster, Whisker and Intensity map. These tools mimic software that were available for EIS and IRIS.

For further details, please visit the SPICE Quicklook and Data Analysis Software Page.

Raster Browser

This is useful for browsing the 3D data cubes from SPICE rasters. In addition to being called from spice_xfiles (see above), it can also be called directly from the command line:

IDL> spice_raster_browser,file

Use a 3-button mouse to browse the images and spectra: the middle button allows you to select a new pixel, the left button zooms in and the right button zooms out.

Page maintained by Dr Peter Young.