Two NIRcam channels are better than one: How JWST can do more science with NIRcam’s short-wavelength dispersed hartmann sensor

E. Schlawin, M. Rieke, J. Leisenring, L. M. Walker, J. Fraine, D. Kelly, K. Misselt, T. Greene, Michael Line, N. Lewis, J. Stansberry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) offers unprecedented sensitivity, stability, and wavelength coverage for transiting exoplanet studies, opening up new avenues for measuring atmospheric abundances, structure, and temperature profiles. Taking full advantage of JWST spectroscopy of planets from 0.6 to 28 μm, however, will require many observations with a combination of the NIRISS, NIRCam, NIRSpec, and MIRI instruments. In this white paper, we discuss a new NIRCam mode (not yet approved or implemented) that can reduce the number of necessary observations to cover the 1.0–5.0 μm wavelength range. Even though NIRCam was designed primarily as an imager, it also includes several grisms for phasing and aligning JWST’s 18 hexagonal mirror segments. NIRCam’s long-wavelength channel includes grisms that cover 2.4–5.0 μm with a resolving power of R = 1200–1550 using two separate configurations. The long-wavelength grisms have already been approved for science operations, including wide field and single object (time series) slitless spectroscopy. We propose a new mode that will simultaneously measure spectra for science targets in the 1.0–2.0 μm range using NIRCam’s shortwavelength channel. This mode, if approved, would take advantage of NIRCam’s Dispersed Hartmann Sensor (DHS), which produces 10 spatially separated spectra per source at R ∼ 300. We discuss the added benefit of the DHS in constraining abundances in exoplanet atmospheres as well as its ability to observe the brightest systems. The DHS essentially comes for free (at no time cost) with any NIRCam long-wavelength grism observation, but the detector integration parameters have to be selected to ensure that the long-wavelength grism observations do not saturate and that JWST data volume downlink constraints are not violated. Combining both of NIRCam’s channels will maximize the science potential of JWST, which is a limited life observatory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number015001
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number971
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Instrumentation: Spectrographs
  • Planets and satellites: Atmospheres
  • Planets and satellites: Composition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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