JWST noise floor. II. systematic error sources in JWST NIRCam time series

Everett Schlawin, Jarron Leisenring, Michael W. McElwain, Karl Misselt, Kenneth Don, Thomas P. Greene, Thomas Beatty, Nikolay Nikolov, Douglas Kelly, Marcia Rieke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) holds great promise for characterizing atmospheres of transiting exoplanets, potentially providing insights into Earth-sized planets within the habitable zones of M-dwarf host stars if photon-limited performance can be achieved. Here, we discuss the systematic error sources that are expected to be present in grism time-series observations with the NIRCam instrument. We find that pointing jitter and highgain antenna moves in addition to the detectors' subpixel crosshatch patterns will produce relatively small variations (less than 6 parts per million, ppm). The time-dependent aperture losses due to thermal instabilities in the optics can also be kept to below 2 ppm. To achieve these low noise values, it is important to employ a sufficiently large (more than 1"1) extraction aperture. Persistence due to charge-trapping will have a minor (less than 3 ppm) effect on the time series 20 minutes into an exposure and is expected to play a much smaller role than it does for the Hubble Space Telescope WFC3 detectors. We expect detector temperature fluctuations to contribute less than 3 ppm. In total, our estimated noise floor from known systematic error sources is only 9 ppm per visit. We urge caution, however, because unknown systematic error sources could be present in flight and will only be measurable on astrophysical sources such as quiescent stars. We find that reciprocity failure may introduce a perennial instrument offset at the 40 ppm level, so corrections may be needed when a multi-instrument multi-observatory spectrum is stitched together over wide wavelength ranges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18pp
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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