JWST NIRSpec bright object time-series (BOTS) mode uses the 1.6” × 1.6” fixed slit aperture. This mode is optimized for exoplanet transit observations requiring stable observing conditions and high photometric precision time-series spectroscopy.
The JWST NIRSpec bright object time-series (BOTS) mode is for observations of bright sources that require high throughput and stable time-resolved spectroscopy. This mode is optimized for the study of transiting exoplanets around their bright host stars; such observations are expected to be the primary use of the BOTS mode. Additional use cases include any time-series science from spectroscopy of bright targets made possible with the NIRSpec's observing capabilities.
BOTS mode can only be used with NIRSpec's S1600A1 aperture. This 1.6" square aperture specifically enables high precision time-series spectroscopy of bright stars with transiting planets. The S1600A1 aperture can be accessed in both the fixed slits (FS) and BOTS mode, unlike other NIRSpec apertures which can only be used in a specific mode and the corresponding template.
BOTS mode provides a specific set of observing options that are optimized for exoplanet transits:
Properties of the BOTS mode
See also: NIRSpec Fixed Slits
The NIRSpec S1600A1 aperture is 1.6 arcsec square, and is large enough to pass about 95% of the light from a point source. This helps improve signal to noise, and the large aperture also makes the throughput insensitive to the small amount of pointing jitter. The location of the S1600A1 aperture in the micro-shutter assembly (MSA) focal plane and a zoomed view of the BOTS aperture is presented in Figure 1. Because the S1600A1 aperture is so large, the spectral resolution in the resulting data will typically be determined by the PSF size of the source.
See also: NIRSpec Dispersers and Filters
All NIRSpec modes, including BOTS, use the same set of disperser and filter combinations to provide spectra with R ~ 100, ~ 1,000, and ~ 2,700.
Table 1. Available disperser and filter combinations
The overall system throughput for BOTS (and FS) mode with the S1600A1 aperture is higher than the other Fixed Slits and MSA shutters because of the larger aperture. This is taken into account in the Exposure Time Calculator (ETC).
Detector wavelength gaps
There is a physical gap between the two NIRSpec detectors in the focal plane array. This affects NIRSpec BOTS observations with the high resolution (R = 2,700) gratings because the spectra are long enough to span both NIRSpec detectors. The S1600A1 aperture is positioned such that no spectrum wavelengths are lost when the PRISM or the medium-resolution dispersers are used. A full description of the position of the gaps and wavelength ranges for each filter-grating and subarray combination are available in the NIRSpec BOTS Wavelength Ranges and Gaps article.
See also: NIRSpec Detector Subarrays
Targets observed in BOTS mode are expected to be very bright, so bright that full frame readouts of the detectors would saturate. Detector saturation is avoided by reading out a smaller portion of the detectors. Table 2 lists the available subarrays and their properties. Observers are encouraged to use the largest subarray possible that avoids saturation.
The ETC can provide precise estimates of count rates to guide the subarray selection.
Table 2. Subarrays and exposure parameters for BOTS mode
The NIRSpec BOTS mode exposure durations are tied to the subarray selected, the associated detector readout pattern timing (see column 4 in Table 2), and the number of integrations used for the time series.
There are two readout patterns available for NIRSpec BOTS mode observations:
The NRSRAPID readout pattern has a single frame, and NRS is four frames averaged into a single group. BOTS mode users will specify exposure times by defining the subarray, readout pattern, number of groups in each integration (integration time), and the number of integrations within the observation. A maximum number of 65,535 integrations can be used per exposure in BOTS mode.
Additional information on NIRSpec BOTS exposure specification and how this translates to exposure time and sensitivity can be found using the JWST Exposure Time Calculator (ETC).
Options for dithering
No dithers are allowed in BOTS mode. This minimizes changes in source flux due to resulting variations in sensitivity and throughput.
Sensitivity and bright limiting magnitudes
Table 3 lists the brightest magnitude (J band) that can be observed in BOTS mode without saturation for three stellar temperatures. These values are intended solely for guidance and precise values should be calculated with the JWST Exposure Time Calculator (ETC).
Table 3. Configurations and estimated brightness limits
What do BOTS mode data look like?
Figure 2 presents an example exposure for a BOTS mode observation. BOTS data consist of multiple integrations captured in a time series. In the figure, each individual integration is shown as a full spectrum across the two detectors. The x- and y-axis in the figure represent the spectral and spatial ranges, respectively. The third dimension in the observed data cube is the time series of multiple integrations captured over the duration defined in the exposure specifications.