How JWST Backgrounds Vary
Backgrounds in JWST observations will vary seasonally for a given sky position; the magnitude of that variation depends on the observation wavelength and ecliptic latitude.
JWST backgrounds will vary seasonally for a given sky position. The magnitude of its variation depends on the observation's wavelength and the target's ecliptic latitude.
APT, the ETC, and the JWST scheduling system calculate these backgrounds, using the same background model. The Backgrounds Tool can be used to calculate and visualize the seasonal variation of backgrounds for a given target.
Spatial and temporal variability of the background
Some components of the JWST background should be constant with time and telescope pointing, while others vary seasonally.
Thermal self-emission should dominate the JWST backgrounds for wavelengths >15 μm. The pre-launch assumption is that the thermal self-emission of JWST will be constant with time and telescope pointing. This assumption is made by APT, the ETC, and the JWST scheduling system, and will be tested during on-orbit commissioning.
Spatial variation of in-field emission
The in-field zodiacal emission depends strongly on ecliptic latitude. The in-field Galactic emission depends strongly on Galactic latitude.
Temporal variation of in-field emission
JWST can observe any specified location on the sky for at least 100 days per calendar year. The length of the visibility window increases with increasing ecliptic latitude. Within a visibility window, the in-field Galactic background will be constant, while the in-field zodiacal background will vary predictably with date as JWST looks through different path lengths of dust, with different temperatures, in our Solar System. Figure 1 shows an example of the temporal variability of the background over one year.
Spatial and temporal variation of stray light
Users should be aware that JWST is subject to stray light, and they should use the ETC to understand the degree to which stray light affects the signal-to-noise estimates for their planned observations.
The amount of stray light depends on the pointing and the observatory V3 roll angle. Models predict a correlation of the stray light level with the in-field zodiacal and Galactic background level, since much of the susceptibility to stray light occurs within tens of degrees of the boresight (observatory V1 axis).
However, JWST is also susceptible to stray light from sources located far from the boresight. The JWST Exposure Time Calculator (ETC) uses maps that predict the susceptibility of JWST to stray light, given material properties and expected levels of dust contamination. For a given celestial position and date (which determines the nominal observatory V3 roll angle), the ETC projects the susceptibility maps onto the astronomical sky, to predict the amount of stray light at each instrument focal plane.
How the seasonal variation of the background affects schedulability
The number of days per year that a target is observable to JWST is a simple function of ecliptic latitude, as illustrated by Figure 2. The JWST backgrounds are also a function of ecliptic latitude—both the minimum background over a year, and the shape of the seasonal variability curve. This has important consequences for target observability.
Advice for proposers
See also: Background-Limited JWST Observations
The Background-Limited JWST Observations article describes a simple method, using the JWST ETC, to determine whether the signal-to-noise ratio of a particular observation is sensitive to the time-variable background. Observations that are background sensitive should use the BACKGROUND LIMITED special requirement in APT, so that the observation will be scheduled when the background is relatively low. This special requirement affects the schedulability of an observation.