NIRISS Detector Readout Patterns

The JWST NIRISS detector allows 2 readout patterns—NIS and NISRAPID—that determine the sampling cadence for non-destructive readouts. NISRAPID is mostly used for bright targets, while NIS allows longer integration for fainter targets.

See also: Understanding Exposure Times

JWST detectors are read out non-destructively ("sampling up the ramp"), which provides lower average readout noise than if the detector were read out once at the end of an exposure. This mode also allows the identification and rejection of cosmic ray hits in the time domain.

During a NIRISS integration, the pixels are digitized at the sampling rate of 10.0 μsec/pixel. In the full array mode, the NIRISS detector is read with 4 parallel outputs (one output for each 512 × 2048 pixels) resulting in a full frame readout time of 10.737 s. The NIRISS array uses pixel-by-pixel reset which also takes 10.737 s. This reset mode offers better latent image mitigation than other reset modes and allows the total exposure time per pixel to be independent of the position on the detector.

The detector array for all JWST instruments is read using the MULTIACCUM readout mode. An exposure can consist of multiple integrations (MULTIACCUM data ramps). The detector is reset at the beginning of each integration, clearing the accumulated charge. Each integration consists of a number of groups (Ngroups), which can consist of a number of read frames (Nframes).

NIRISS detector readout patterns

See also: NIRISS Detector Readout

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NIRISS has 2 readout patterns, NISRAPID and NIS, summarized in Table 1, and illustrated in Figures 1 and 2, respectively.

In NISRAPID, all the frames are read out (Nframes = 1), and there is no averaging of frames. This mode should be used if the number of integrations per exposure is small and data volume is not an issue. When using a subarray for the AMI or SOSS observing modes, this readout pattern will be used for large numbers of integrations per exposure.

In the NIS mode, 4 frames are averaged together (Nframes = 4). This mode produces a lower data rate for longer exposures of faint targets.

The detector is reset at the beginning of each integration, so that the exposure time per integration is: 

t = Ngroups × Nframes × 10.737s + 10.737s

Table 1. Number of frames per group for each NIRISS readout pattern

NIRISS readout pattern

Number of frames per group


Figure 1. Illustration of the NISRAPID readout pattern

In the NISRAPID readout mode, each frame is saved. Here, Nframes = Ngroups.
Figure 2. Illustration of NIS readout pattern

In the NIS readout mode, 4 frames are averaged per group.

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