MIRI MRS Simultaneous Imaging

Simultaneous use of the JWST MIRI imager and the medium resolution spectrometer (MRS) modes is offered for all observations where the MRS is the primary observing mode.

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See also: MIRI Medium-Resolution Spectroscopy, MIRI Imaging 

The MIRI imager can be used for mid-infrared imaging simultaneously with the MIRI medium resolution spectrometer.

This is referred to as "simultaneous imaging." It is the default operational mode for MRS observations, and it is highly recommended that simultaneous imaging be included where possible for all MRS observations since MRS observations cannot be part of coordinated parallels with other instruments (see the list of coordinated parallel options). Situations in which simultaneous imaging should be disabled include cases where imager and MRS detector readout parameters present data volume problems, or if substantial saturation of the imager would occur (e.g., due to a long MRS observation or if an extremely bright target is in the imager field of view). Generic recommendations for filter and detector parameters can be found on the MIRI MRS Recommended Strategies page.

MIRI simultaneous imaging is not considered a parallel imaging mode.


Since the MIRI MRS has an extremely small field of view (FOV), its absolute astrometric solution cannot always be tied to an external reference frame using MRS data alone. If data are taken without a prior target acquisition observation (for instance, when mapping an extended, diffuse source) the blind pointing precision of MIRI MRS is ~0.3". However due to inaccuracies in the guide star catalog, the WCS of the data may only be accurate to within about 1.5" (see MIRI MRS Known Issues and MRS Recommended Strategies). This poses a challenge to combining exposures across multiple different visits, and also for comparing source locations against extant multi-wavelength data. The simultaneous imaging mode helps to alleviate this problem by obtaining data across the much larger MIRI imaging field of view that can be used offline (in combination with the well-known relation between the imaging and MRS fields) to improve the astrometric solution of individual MRS exposures by cross-matching multiple sources in the imaging field against known catalog positions.

Simultaneous imaging may not provide an optimal background for a MIRI imaging observation, since the dither patterns are optimized for the MRS and not the imager. Please see the "Long wavelength filter warning" section below for additional details and MIRI Imaging Recommended Strategies.

Science applications 

Simultaneous imaging can also be used to obtain additional science observations of an extended object. For example, MRS observations of a small portion of a nebula can be complemented by simultaneous imaging of adjacent regions of the nebula (depending on the roll of the observatory, which is significantly constrained for JWST). Figure 1 shows the spacing and orientation of the imager and MRS FOVs. Specific examples of simultaneous imaging science applications can be found in the MIRI APT templates.

Likewise, as of Cycle 3 it is possible to specify that the MRS science target should be placed into the imaging FOV and observed with a special imager-optimized dither pattern during the MRS dedicated background observation. See details at MIRI MRS Dedicated Sky Observations.

Figure 1. Spacing and orientation of the imager and MRS FOVs

Image from the Aladin viewer in APT of the MIRI imager FOV (large rectangle) and the MRS FOVs for each channel (off the top right corner of the MIRI imager FOV).

Selecting simultaneous imaging in APT

See also: MIRI MRS APT TemplateMIRI Medium Resolution Spectroscopy Template Parameters

Figure 2 shows how to select simultaneous imaging when MIRI Medium Resolution Spectroscopy is selected as the primary observing template.

MRS parameters cannot be specified when MIRI Imaging is selected as the primary observing template.

Figure 2. Selecting simultaneous imaging in the MIRI Medium Resolution Spectroscopy APT template

Click on the figure for a larger view.

In the MIRI Medium Resolution Spectroscopy APT observation template's MRS Parameters panel, select YES or NO under the Simultaneous Imaging drop-down menu. The default, and recommended selection, is YES. All MIRI imaging subarray options are available under the Imager Subarray drop-down menu.

Selecting multiple simultaneous imaging filters

See also: MIRI Filters and Dispersers

Words in bold are GUI menus/
panels or data software packages; 
bold italics are buttons in GUI
tools or package parameters.

A different imaging filter can be selected for each exposure in a given observation. For instance, if an observation contained three exposures (one each for the MRS Wavelength Ranges SHORT, MEDIUM, and LONG, thereby covering the entire MRS wavelength range), then simultaneous imaging could correspondingly be obtained in three different filters.

Long wavelength filter warning

Selecting the F1280W, F1500W, F1800W, F2100W, or F2550W filters for simultaneous imaging will result in the following warning message: "Warning (Form): Imager Filter overlap." This is due to the large size of the PSF FWHM in those filters compared to the smallest of the MRS dither patterns; executing a small dither for the MRS will result in the PSFs of point sources in the imager overlapping between subsequent exposures, which can be problematic when performing image subtraction.

Simultaneous imaging and target acquisition

See also: MIRI MRS Target AcquisitionMIRI Imaging Target AcquisitionMIRI Detector Subarrays

MRS target acquisition (TA) uses the FULL subarray of the MIRI imager. If TA is selected, the FULL imager subarray should also be selected for simultaneous imaging (Figure 2), otherwise APT will generate a warning that the imager data quality may be adversely affected. If no MRS TA is selected, there is no restriction on the subarray mode available for simultaneous imaging.

Simultaneous imaging overheads

See also: MIRI Overheads

If simultaneous imaging is selected, there will be an additional small overhead for each dither position. For example, if a 4-point dither is selected, and observations are set up with all 3 Wavelength Ranges, this results in 12 dithers and each of those dithers incurs its own small overhead.

Notable updates
    Updated to include new image-optimized dither option available in Cycle 3 

    Added additional caveats.

  • Updated data volume statements.

    Fixed broken link to GTO page.

    Updated Figure 1 to match APT 27.0.1 and removed Figure 2.

    Updated exposure creation for multiple filters, and for no-TA options in APT 25.4.2.
    Figures replaced to match APT 25.4.2.
Originally published