1.1 Overview

The Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) is a versatile imaging spectrograph, originally installed in 1997 during HST servicing mission 2.  STIS provides spatially resolved spectroscopy from 1150 to 10,300 Å at low to medium spectral resolution, high spatial resolution echelle spectroscopy in the ultraviolet (UV), solar-blind imaging in the UV, time tagging of photons in the UV for high time resolution, direct and coronagraphic imaging in the optical, and very high signal-to-noise ratio spectra in the NUV/optical/NIR.  Its capabilities are thus complementary to those of the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS).

After several years of successful operation, observations with STIS were suspended in August 2004, when a power supply in the Side-2 electronics failed.  Nearly five years later, STIS was successfully repaired during the fourth HST servicing mission (SM4) in May 2009 and resumed science operations with all channels. Following the repair, most aspects of instrument operations and performance were very similar to what they had been prior to the 2004 failure. There were, however, some important changes at that point, and the behavior of the instrument has continued to evolve.  Some of those changes will be outlined in Chapter 2, and additional details will be given elsewhere in this Handbook as appropriate. 

This Handbook provides instrument-specific information needed to propose for STIS observations (Phase I), design accepted programs (Phase II), and understand STIS in detail. 

This chapter explains the layout of the Handbook and describes how to use the Help Desk at STScI and the STScI STIS website to get help and further information. Instrument and operating updates will be posted on the STIS website.