NIRSpec Detector Subarrays
The NIRSpec detectors (sensor chip assemblies; SCAs) have a subarray readout mode that reads a contiguous rectangular subset of pixels from each SCA. In this mode, a single output channel is used instead of the usual 4 output channels in full frame readout mode.
Subarrays are only offered in the fixed slit (FS) and bright object time-series (BOTS) templates with NIRSpec, and can only be read out using the NIRSpec traditional readout, not the IRS2 noise reduction mode. Only one rectangular subarray can be used per SCA, and its size must be identical for both SCAs. Each dimension of the subarray must be a power of 2 that is larger than 8 (e.g., 32 × 1024 pixels) and the subarrays must contain at least 1024 pixels.
During NIRSpec subarray exposures, the detector area outside the subarray pixel range may still be exposed to light, either through the other fixed slit apertures or from failed-open micro-shutters.
NIRSpec subarrays in FS and BOTS modes
NIRSpec subarrays offer shorter frame times than the full frame readout modes, and can therefore be used to observe brighter science sources before pixel saturation occurs. Subarray sizes optimized for the supported FSs in the FS and BOTS science modes are listed in Tables 1 and 2. The subarrays are automatically adjusted in pixel position for the grating-filter optical configurations used for a given exposure, to ensure that science spectra lie within the subarray detector region. The conversion gain for subarrays is about a factor of 1.43 higher compared to full frame data for both SCAs, resulting in a saturation limit of ~77,000 e–. This provides a greater dynamic range for observing bright sources. The ETC imposes a slightly more constrained saturation limit of ~65,000 e– for the subarrays.
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In FS mode, the maximum exposure duration is 10,000 s to allow for re-adjustment of the high gain antenna (HGA) to maintain communications. In BOTS mode, the limit on the maximum exposure duration has been extended to ride out any HGA moves. Table 2, column 6, shows the longest possible exposure time using the shortest available integration time with each subarray. This corresponds to an exposure containing the maximum number (65,535) of integrations with only one group of one frame (NRSRAPID readout) per integration.
Table 1. NIRSpec subarrays for the FS observing mode
|Subarray name||Apertures available||Height (pixels)||Width (pixels)||Frame time (s)|
|FULL †||All FSs||2048||2048|
option: S200A1 and S200A2 **
† FULL is not a subarray, but listed here for completion. Detectors are read with all 4 outputs, and IRS2 readout mode is available for full frame readouts.
‡ SUB1024A captures the shorter wavelength portion of the spectrum on the NRS1 detector, and the longer wavelength portion of the spectrum on NRS2. Alternatively, SUB1024B captures the longer wavelength portion on NRS1 and the shorter wavelength portion on NRS2. The medium resolution (M) grating and PRISM spectra from the fixed slits map entirely to NRS1, but for the high resolution (H) gratings, the use of SUB1024B will enable capturing a (semi-)contiguous mid-wavelength portion of the spectrum across the detector gap.
* SUB1024A (available for the S1600A1 aperture only) should not be used with the PRISM since the spectra do not project to the region of the detector covered but this subarray.
** Automatically observing with both the S200A1 and S200A2 slits is an available option; this selection must use the ALLSLITS subarray or FULL.
In FS mode, the subarrays are matched to the FS aperture used for science, and will sample all spectra measured on the detectors. Some smaller subarrays are available for the S1600A1 aperture only (see Table 2) to observe brighter targets, particularly in the BOTS observing mode.
Table 2. Subarrays and exposure parameters for BOTS mode
|Subarray name †|
Maximum exposure duration, in seconds (hours)
|SUB2048||32||2048||any||0.90200||172,800 (48.00)**||Full spectrum range|
|SUB1024A‡,*||32||1024||any, except PRISM||0.45144||90,097.5 (25.03)||Short wavelength half of the spectrum|
|SUB1024B‡||32||1024||any||0.45144||90,097.5 (25.03)||Long wavelength half of the spectrum|
|SUB512||32||512||PRISM||0.22616||45,806.3 (12.72)||Both detectors are read out but no illumination of detector NRS2|
|SUB512S||16||512||PRISM||0.14392||29,637.5 (8.23)||Both detectors are read out but no illumination of detector NRS2; no un-illuminated pixel in trace|
† All BOTS mode observations use the S1600A1 fixed slit. The stated maximum exposure durations are for 2 groups in NRSRAPID readout mode with the maximum number of integrations/exposure (65,535) unless stated otherwise. These are only allowed after adding the time-series observation (TSO) special requirement.
‡SUB1024A captures the shorter wavelength portion of the spectrum on the NRS1 detector, and the longer wavelength portion of the spectrum on NRS2. Alternatively, SUB1024B captures the longer wavelength portion on NRS1 and the shorter wavelength portion on NRS2. The medium resolution (M) grating and PRISM spectra for BOTS map entirely to NRS1. However, for the high resolution (H) gratings, the use of SUB1024B will enable capturing a (semi-)contiguous mid-wavelength portion of the spectrum across the detector gap.
* SUB1024A should not be used with the PRISM since the spectra do not project to the region of the detector covered but this subarray.
**Limited by the allowed visit duration.