The brighter-fatter effect in the JWST MIRI Si:As IBC detectors I. Observations, impact on science, and modeling

Ioannis Argyriou*, Craig Lage, George H. Rieke, Danny Gasman, Jeroen Bouwman, Jane Morrison, Mattia Libralato, Daniel Dicken, Bernhard R. Brandl, More Authors

*Corresponding author for this work

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Context. The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on board the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) uses three Si:As impurity band conduction (IBC) detector arrays. The output voltage level of each MIRI detector pixel is digitally recorded by sampling up the ramp. For uniform or low-contrast illumination, the pixel ramps become nonlinear in a predictable way, but in areas of high contrast, the nonlinearity curve becomes much more complex. The origin of the effect is poorly understood and currently not calibrated out of the data. Aims. We provide observational evidence of the brighter-fatter effect (BFE) in MIRI conventional and high-contrast coronagraphic imaging, low-resolution spectroscopy, and medium-resolution spectroscopy data, and we investigate the physical mechanism that gives rise to the effect on the MIRI detector pixel raw voltage integration ramps. Methods. We used public data from the JWST/MIRI commissioning and Cycle 1 phase. We also developed a numerical electrostatic model of the MIRI detectors using a modified version of the public Poisson_CCD code. Results. We find that the physical mechanism behind the BFE manifesting in MIRI data is fundamentally different to that of chargecoupled devices and photodiode arrays such as the Hawaii-XRG near-infrared detectors used by the NIRISS, NIRCam, and NIRSpec instruments on board JWST. Observationally, the BFE makes the JWST MIRI data yield 10-25% larger point sources and spectral line profiles as a function of the relative level of de-biasing of neighboring detector pixels. This broadening impacts the MIRI absolute flux calibration, time-series observations of faint companions, and point spread function modeling and subtraction. We also find that the intra-pixel 2D profile of the shrinking Si:As IBC detector depletion region directly impacts the accuracy of the pixel ramp nonlinearity calibration model.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA96
Number of pages16
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • infrared: general
  • instrumentation: detectors
  • methods: data analysis
  • methods: numerical


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