NIRISS Dithers

Dithering with JWST NIRISS is required for the wide field slitless spectroscopy (WFSS) mode to improve point spread function sampling, as well as mitigate the effects of bad pixels and sensitivity variations across the detector.

Dithering is performed by moving the telescope slightly between exposures using small angle maneuvers (SAMs), so that the astronomical scene is offset to different locations on the detector in the different exposures.

Dithering is generally motivated by various benefits that improve the photometric and astrometric quality of astronomical images:

  • It allows one to improve the effective sampling of the point spread function (PSF) at short wavelengths where the detector pixel size causes undersampling. Since the NIRISS detector is critically sampled at 4 μm, the features within an astronomical scene are undersampled in many NIRISS images if no dithering is used. 
  • It can mitigate effects of undesired features such as ghosts, bad pixels, coronagraphic spots, persistence from previous exposures, or small scratches on the NIRISS pick-off mirror. 
  • It helps reduce flat-fielding errors by placing the target on different pixels, thereby reducing the flat-fielding errors by the square root of the number of dithers. 
  • It improves noise properties of images corrected for geometric distortion compared to a stack of images taken with single pointing by mitigating correlated sampling errors. 
  • It mitigates the photometric and astrometric errors induced by the sensitivity variations across individual pixels or intra-pixel sensitivity (IPS) of the NIRISS detector .

Dithering is required for the wide field slitless spectroscopy and imaging modes. For the aperture masking interferometry mode, dithering is supported but not encouraged. Dithering is not allowed for the single object slitless spectroscopy mode since these observations require high precision differential spectro-photometry, where all systematic differences between individual exposures need to be minimized.

Users have to choose from a restricted set of pre-defined dither patterns, which are described in these articles for the individual observing modes: 

NIRISS Imaging Dithers

The total exposure time for a NIRISS observing sequence is determined by 3 parameters:

The dither pattern determines the number of exposures, and the readout (sub)array and MULTIACCUM parameters (readout pattern, number of groups per integration, number of integrations per exposure) determine the integration time per exposure.


Goudfrooij, P. 2015 JWST-STScI-004466
NIRISS Dither Patterns for the WFSS and Imaging Observing modes

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