The Impact of Cosmic Rays on the Sensitivity of JWST/NIRSpec

20 Jan

[2019PASP..131i4503G]  Giardino, Giovanna; Birkmann, Stephan; Robberto, Massimo; Ferruit, Pierre; Rauscher, Bernard J.; Sirianni, Marco; Alves de Oliveira, Catarina; Boeker, Torsten; Luetzgendorf, Nora; te Plate, Maurice; Puga, Elena; Rawle, Tim

The focal plane of the Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument on board the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is equipped with two Teledyne H2RG near-IR detectors, state-of-the-art HgCdTe sensors with excellent noise performance. Once JWST is in space, however, the noise level in NIRSpec exposures will be affected by the cosmic ray (CR) fluence at the JWST orbit and our ability to detect CR hits and to mitigate their effect.

We have simulated the effect of CRs on NIRSpec detectors by injecting realistic CR events onto dark exposures that were recently acquired during the JWST cryo-vacuum test campaign undertaken at Johnson Space Flight Center. Here we present the method we have implemented to detect the hits in the exposure integration cubes, to reject the affected data points within our ramp-to-slope processing pipeline (the prototype of the NIRSpec official pipeline), and assess the performance of this method for different choices of the algorithm parameters. Using the optimal parameter set to reject CR hits from the data, we estimate that, for an exposure length of 1000 s, the presence of CRs in space will lead to an increase of typically ̃7% in the detector noise level with respect to the on-ground performance, and the corresponding decrease in the limiting sensitivity of the instrument, for the medium and high-spectral resolution modes.