Last Updated Mar 24, 2017
The aperture masking interferometry (AMI) mode of NIRISS uses the wave nature of light to produce images with high spatial resolution at near-infrared wavelengths. It is a simple and time-honored technique. Light admitted by 7 apertures punched in an otherwise opaque mask interfere with each other to produce an interferogram on the detector, which has a sharper core than provided by normal "direct" imaging. The advantage is significant: while the ability to separate closely spaced objects with normal imaging is given by the familiar Rayleigh criterion ( \delta\theta = 1.22 \, \lambda / D , where \lambda is the wavelength of light and D is the diameter of the telescope), interferometry can resolve objects as close as \delta\theta = 0.5 \, \lambda / D (the Michelson criterion). AMI allows planetary or stellar companions that are up to 10 magnitudes fainter than their host star and separated by 70 – 400 mas to be detected and characterized. AMI can also be used to build up high-resolution maps of extended sources, such as active galactic nuclei
The AMI mode is enabled by a non-redundant mask (NRM) in the pupil wheel (PW), which is used in conjunction with one of three medium-band filters (F380M, F430M, F480M) or a wide-band filter (F277W) in the filter wheel (FW).
- the outer regions of the PSF contain a greater fraction of the total flux relative to the intensity of the PSF peak
- the bright interferometric fringes in the outskirts of the NRM PSF are easily detectable due to their relative brightness and distant location from the core.
By carefully comparing the distribution of flux in an interferogram obtained for a target of scientific interest (e.g., the binary shown in the left panel of Figure 3) with the distribution obtained for a reference star that is known to be single (e.g., the right panel of Figure 3), AMI observations allow secure detections of faint companions at separations that are not accessible to the coronagraphic modes of JWST. AMI observations acquired through multiple filters allow the spectral properties of the secondary to be measured.
AMI exposure sequence
An AMI observation sequence usually involves a target acquisition (TA) followed by images using the NRM in combination with the desired filters. A TA is required to ensure accurate and reproducible placement of targets within the small subarray that is typically used for AMI. The TA procedure is optional for applications of AMI that require full-frame exposures.
Target acquisitions are accomplished by taking short integrations in a predefined subarray through the F480M filter in the FW and either the NRM (for brighter targets) or CLEARP element (for fainter targets) in the PW. The TA procedure autonomously determines the centroid of the brightest object in the TA subarray. Accurate knowledge of the position of the source at this location is used to command a small slew that places it accurately in the subarray used for AMI science.
The TA is followed by the science exposures. which use the NRM in the PW and one or more of the four filters in the FW available to AMI: F277W, F380M, F430M, and F480M. The science exposure may be taken with a subarray or a full-frame aperture, depending on the science requirements or the brightness of the source. Optionally, one or more direct images using the CLEARP aperture and the same suite of FW filters as those used for the NRM images may be obtained for PSF characterization or related analyses.
This entire sequence is typically repeated for a nearby "reference star," which is single and ideally of similar magnitude and color.
The AMI mode uses the NRM in conjunction with one of the 3 medium-band filters (F380M, F430M, F480M) or the wide-band F277W filter.
Science targets for the AMI mode are typically bright point sources. The AMI mode usually uses an 80 × 80 subarray, which can be readout quickly enough to ensure that sources as bright as M' ≈ 4 (Vega magnitude system) will not saturate. For faint targets, the full-frame mode can be used. Target acquisition for the AMI mode uses a 64 × 64 subarray.
AMI dither patterns
Dithering is available but not required for AMI mode observations. In general, acquiring dithered AMI data will help to mitigate
- residual errors in the flat field
- the effects of hot pixels
- the effects of cosmic ray hits that are not identified in standard processing
- intra-pixel sensitivity variations
Since these effects occur on different spatial scales on the detector, dither patterns involving spatial offsets of many pixels as well as small fractions of a pixel are required to treat them.
The dither patterns for the AMI mode are implemented as "primary" dithers that perform 40-pixel offsets in a rectangular pattern (with up to 4 positions within the 80 × 80 pixels science subarray) in conjunction with "secondary" dithers that are sub-pixel offsets (0.20–0.33 pixels) designed to obtain adequate pixel phase coverage.
Artigau, E., Sivaramakrishnan, A., Greenbaum, A. Z. et al., 2014, SPIE, 9143E, 40A,
NIRISS aperture masking interferometry: an overview of science opportunities
Greenbaum, A.Z., Pueyo, L., Sivaramakrishnan, A., Lacour, S., 2015, The Astrophysical Journal, 798, 68,
An Image-Plane Algorithm for JWST's Non-Redundant Aperture Mask Data
Ford, K. E. S., McKernan, B., Sivaramakrishnan, A. et al. 2014, The Astrophysical Journal, 783, 73,
Active Galactic Nucleus and Quasar Science with Aperture Masking Interferometry on the James Webb Space Telescope
Sivaramakrishnan, A. & Artigau, E. 2014, STScI Newsletter, Volume 31, issue 01,
Aperture-Masking Interferometry with Webb's NIRISS,
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