Running Astrodrizzle

runastrodriz is a module to control operation of astrodrizzle which removes distortion and combines HST images in the pipeline.

Typical Usage

>>> [-fhibn] inputFilename [newpath]

Alternative Usage

>>> python
>>> from wfc3tools import runastrodriz
>>> runastrodriz.process(inputFilename,force=False,newpath=None,inmemory=False)

GUI Usage under Python

>>> python
>>> from import teal
>>> import wfc3tools
>>> cfg = teal.teal('runastrodriz')

PyRAF Usage

>>> epar runastrodriz


If the ‘-i’ option gets specified, no intermediate products will be written out to disk. These products, instead, will be kept in memory. This includes all single drizzle products (single_sci and single_wht), median image, blot images, and crmask images. The use of this option will therefore require significantly more memory than usual to process the data.

If a value has been provided for the newpath parameter, all processing will be performed in that directory/ramdisk. The steps involved are:

  • create a temporary directory under that directory named after the input file
  • copy all files related to the input to that new directory
  • change to that new directory and run astrodrizzle
  • change back to original directory
  • move (not copy) ALL files from temp directory to original directory
  • delete temp sub-directory

The ‘-b’ option will run this task in BASIC mode without creating headerlets for each input image.

The ‘-n’ option allows the user to specify the number of cores to be used in running AstroDrizzle.

Pipeline Astrometric Calibration Description

A lot of effort goes into trying to determine the WCS solution which provides closest agreement with the GAIA astrometry frame. Combining the images successfully requires the most accurate alignment possible between all the input exposures taking into account the best available distortion model for the input exposures. Being able to compare the combined image to other exposures taken of the same field at other times, or even with other telescopes, requires that the WCS be defined to come as close to the GAIA frame as possible. The processing done by runastrodriz attempts to not only apply the most current distortion model, but also the best available pre-computed GAIA-based WCS solutions while proceeding to determine it’s own solution to the available GAIA reference stars for the field-of-view. It also performs numerous checks to see which of these solutions results in the most accurately aligned images to each other. The processing continued to attempt an alignment to GAIA using sources it identifies from the observations and checks to see if any fit was successful. Finally, it selects the WCS solution most closely aligned to GAIA that as the basis for creating the final, distorted-corrected, combined drizzle products for the set of exposures being processed.


The overall logic implemented by runastrodriz to generate the final set of drizzle products involves creating multiple sets of drizzle products and ultimately selecting one as the ‘best’. The basic steps are outlined here, with following sections providing additional detail on each step.

  1. Initialization
  1. Get any defined environment variables to control processing
  2. Interpret input file
  3. Make sure all input files are in a local directory
  4. Check for DRIZCORR calibration switch in input files
  5. Create name for output log files
  6. Define lists of individual input files to be processed
  1. Run updatewcs without astrometry database update on all input exposures (FLCs? and FLTs)

  2. Generate initial default products and perform verification

    1. perform cosmic-ray identification and generate drizzle products using astrodrizzle for all sets of inputs
    2. verify relative alignment with focus index after masking out CRs
    3. if alignment fails, update trailer file with failure information
  3. If alignment is verified,

    1. copy inputs to separate sub-directory for processing
    2. run updatewcs to get a priori updates
    • apply ‘best’ apriori (not aposteriori) solution
    1. generate drizzle products for all sets of inputs (FLC and/or FLT)

    2. verify alignment using focus index on FLC or, if no FLC, FLT products

    3. if alignment fails, update trailer file with info on failure

    4. if product alignment verified:

      • copy all drizzle products to parent directory
      • copy updated input exposures to parent directory
  4. If a posteriori correction enabled,

    1. copy all inputs to separate sub-directory for processing
    2. run align to align the images
    3. generate drizzle products for all sets of inputs (FLC and/or FLT) without CR identification
    4. verify alignment using focus index on FLC or, if no FLC, FLT products
    5. determine similarity index relative to pipeline default product
    6. if either focus or similarity indicates a problem, update trailer file with info on failure
    7. if product alignment verified:
      • copy all drizzle products to parent directory
      • copy updated input exposures to parent directory
  5. Remove all processing sub-directories


Environment Variables

The pipeline processing code starts out by looking to see whether the user has defined any processing behavior through the use of these environment variables:

  • ‘ASTROMETRY_COMPUTE_APOSTERIORI’: This environment variable specifies whether or not to attempt an a posteriori alignment where the code looks for sources in each of the images and uses those positions to perform relative alignment between the images and then fit those images to the GAIA frame.
  • ‘ASTROMETRY_APPLY_APRIORI’: This environment variable turns on/off application of any pre-defined(a priori) WCS solution found in the astrometry database.
  • ‘ASTROMETRY_STEP_CONTROL’ [DEPRECATED, do not use]: Old variable replaced by ‘ASTROMETRY_APPLY_APRIORI’.

Values that can be provided for setting these variables are:

  • ‘on’, ‘yes’, ‘true’: Any of these values will turn on the processing controlled by the variable
  • ‘off’, ‘no’, ‘false’: Any of these values will turn off the processing controleed by the variable

By default, all the processing steps are turned on during pipeline processing in order to maximize the chances of aligning the data as closely as possible to the absolute astrometry standard coordinate system defined through the use of the GAIA catalogs. However, these controls are provided to support those observations which would not be suitable for such alignment, including observations of single sources.

Input Data

The processing code needs to be told what data to process, and for runastrodriz, a single input filename is all that can be provided. This single input will be either:

  • the name of an association table for a whole set of input exposures with a filename that looks like ‘<rootname>_asn.fits’, where <rootname> is the designation for the association, such as ‘ie6d07030_asn.fits’.
  • the name of a single (uncalibrated) exposure with a filename that looks like ‘<rootname>_raw.fits’.

This one input filename, though, will simply provide the code with the information it needs to find all the calibrated input exposures which need to have their distortion-models updated and applied. The whole set of input files required for processing includes:

  • ASN (*_asn.fits) files: These small FITS tables provide the relationship between the input exposures and the output products with the output filenames defined in the table. There will NOT be an ASN table for exposures which were taken by themselves (called ‘singletons’).
  • RAW (*_raw.fits) files: Not processed directly, but required in order to get the intended value of the DRIZCORR calibration switch. The ASN files also only give the rootname, and with the possibility of multiple suffixes (_flt, _flc,…) for calibrated products, the code starts with the _raw files to insure that what is specified in the ASN table is actually present and has been calibrated before processing.
  • FLT/FLC (*_flt.fits or *_flc.fits) files: These are the non-CTE-corrected (_flt) and CTE-corrected (_flc) calibrated exposures to be processed.

The FLT/FLC files will be the ones that actually get processed and updated with the new distortion models and WCSs, while the others allow the code to know what FLT/FLC files should be included in the processing. This allows for multiple associations of data to live in the same directory and not interfere with each other as they are re-processed. That can be useful when interested in combining data from multiple visits, for example.


Should any of these files not be available (found in the local directory), the code will raise an Exception when trying to run ‘drizzlepac.astrodrizzle.AstroDrizzle’ on the data. The message will indicate what file was missing with something like: “Exception: File ie6d07ujq_flt not found.”

Calibration Switches

This processing serves as an official calibration step defined for HST data through the use of the DRIZCORR header keyword. This keyword can be found along with all the other calibration switches in the PRIMARY header (extension 0) of the exposures FITS file. A quick way to view this (or any keyword) value would be with:

from import fits
val = fits.getval('ie6d07ujq_flt.fits', 'drizcorr')

This switch must be set to ‘PERFORM’ in order to allow the processing to be done. Processing will be completely skipped should the value of this switch in the ‘_raw.fits’ file be set to ‘OMIT’.

Log Files

A number of log files, or ‘trailer’ files, get generated during processing, and their filenames get defined as early as possible in the processing. The primary file will be a file with a ‘.tra’ extension and should have the same ‘<rootname>’ as the input file used to start the code. For example, if you were to reprocess ‘ie6d07030_asn.fits’, you would end up with a trailer file with the name ‘ie6d07030.tra’.

This log file contains the messages generated from performing all the updates to the distortion model, updates from the astrometry database (if any), and all the image combinations performed by ‘AstroDrizzle()’ to create the final set of calibrated, drizzled exposures. Should any problems arise when during the processing, the log can provide the error messages and tracebacks to determine what went wrong.

Data to be Processed

Once the code has performed all the initialization, it prepares the processing by defining what files need to be combined together from the input files it can find. This includes looking for CTE-corrected versions of the calibrated exposures (FLC files) as well as all the non-CTE-corrected files (FLT files) and creating a separate list of each type. Many types of data do not get CTE-corrected by the instruments calibration software, such as calacs.e or calwf3.e, and so no list of FLC files will be made. This will tell the code that it only needs to process the FLT files by themselves. If FLC files are found, all updates to the astrometry and WCS will be performed on those files and the results then get copied into the FLT file headers upon completion of the processing.

Update the WCS

The first operation on the calibrated input files focuses on applying the calibrations for the distortion model to the WCS. This operation gets performed using the updatewcs task using the syntax:

from stwcs.updatewcs import updatewcs
updatewcs(calfiles_flc, use_db=False)

where calfiles_flc' is the list of CTE-corrected FLC files or in the case there are no CTE-corrected files, the list of calibrated FLT files.  Crucially, the use of `use_db=False forces updatewcs to only apply the distortion model to the default WCS to create what is referred to as the pipeline-default WCS. This WCS has a WCSNAME associated with it that has the format IDC_<rootname> where <rootname> is the rootname of the IDCTAB reference files applied to the WCS.

This default WCS serves as the basis for all subsequent processing as the code tries to determine the WCS which is aligned most closely to the GAIA astrometric coordinate system.

Generate the initial default products

The instrument teams have calibrated the distortion models extremely well for nearly all imaging modes with the latest calibration model being applied to the WCS keywords when the observations were updated in the previous step. The observations at this point represent what the best calibration of the pointings as observed by the telescope. The accuracy of the guiding allows for sub-pixel alignment of the observations for most of the data and this step applies the distortion model to generate the ‘pipeline-default’ drizzle products.

The default products get generated using the astrodrizzle task. This initial run relies on a couple of default settings to generate the default drizzle products; namely,

  • reads and applies default parameter settings from MDRIZTAB specified in observation header
  • uses resetbits=4096
  • runs with crbit=4096 to define cosmic-rays/bad-pixels with DQ flag of 4096

Identify Cosmic-Rays

Generating these drizzle products serves as the initial attempt to identify and to flag bad-pixels or cosmic-rays in each of the observations. Assuming the relative alignment of the initial pointing by the telescope is good (aligned to <0.1 pixels), most of the cosmic-rays will be successfully identified at this point by flagging those pixels with a value of 4096 in the DQ array for each chip. This will make it easier to find sources and confirm alignment without having to weed through so many false sources. However, there are times when the default alignment by the telescope was not maintained which can result in all sources (real and cosmic-rays alike) to be flagged, so subsequent steps can reset the DQ bits from 4096 to 0 while processing the data again with astrodrizzle using different WCS solutions.

These initial products will only be generated for the CTE-corrected versions of the observations (*_flc.fits or FLC files) if they are present, and the standard calibrated versions of the observations (*flt.fits or FLT files) otherwise.

Verifying Alignment

The relative alignment of these pipeline-default products relies entirely on the guiding accuracy of the telescope. Unfortunately, there are times when guiding problems impact the observations. These guiding errors can occur due to any of several reasons, including but not limited to:

  • re-acquisition of a different guide star from one orbit to another, usually as a result of using a close binary that was not previously identified in the guide star catalog
  • high slew rate due to only guiding on gyros due to problems with acquiring guide stars
  • spurious guiding problems due to the aging telescope and guiding systems

Computing the Focus Index

Verifying whether or not we can identify any problems with the relative alignment for these products starts by measuring the focus index for the drizzled products. The focus index was based on using the properties of the Laplacian of Gaussian (LoG) operator as an edge detector. See for background on the Laplacian of Gaussian operator and its use in image filtering. The index that has been implemented is based on the maximum value of the LoG operation on each drizzled product.

The process for computing this index is:

  • use the drizzled product, with as many cosmic-rays removed as possible, as the input
  • mask out all the saturated sources as well as possible
  • apply the LoG operator to the image
  • pick out the pixel with the maximum value to serve as the value of the focus index

This measurement process gets applied to the total drizzle product for an association, as well as the drizzle product for each input exposure as well, known as ‘single drizzled’ products. The single drizzled products represent the optimal focus since there is only a single exposure with only telescope focus changes affecting the image focus value. The range of values from the single drizzled products establishes the distribution of ‘good’ focus values that gets used to evaluate whether the total drizzle product passes focus verification. This range of values comes as a result of the changing focus of the telescope from one exposure to another and to a lesser extent the effect of noise in low-S/N observations.

A Z-score then gets computed for the focus index value of each single drizzle product. In simplest terms, the Z-score is a measure of how many sigma above or below the population mean a measured valued is. The actual computation is:

from scipy.stats as st

p = st.norm.cdf(x=val, loc=mean, scale=sigma)
z_score = st.norm.ppf(p)

A Z-score then gets computed for the focus index value derived from the total drizzle product. If this score falls within the range of values defined by the single drizzle focus index Z-score values, this WCS solution is considered to have passed the ‘focus verification’ check.

Computing the Similarity Index

In addition to the focus index, a similarity index can also be computed between the single drizzle products (again treated as ‘truth’) and the total drizzle product. The function used to compute this is the max_overlap_diff function in astrometric_utils. The similarity index gets computed only for the region of maximum overlap of all the input exposures. This region of overlap gets determined using the SkyFootprint class from the cell_utils module. Should an input exposure not overlap the regions where most of the exposures overlap, then the region which overlaps at least 1 other exposure will be used for computing the index.

Point sources are detected in the selected region of overlap with a mask being generated for each source containing a value of 1 for the point source and 0 for the background. The sources are identified in the single drizzle image overlap region and the total drizzle product overlap region. These single drizzle mask then gets subtracted from the total drizzle mask, then scaled by the number of non-zero pixels in the single drizzle mask resulting in a Hamming distance between the two images. The Hamming distance, simply put, provides the percentage of differences pixel-by-pixel between two arrays as described in the scipy package spatial.distance. This distance then gets scaled by the relative exposure time of the single drizzle image to account for uncertainties introduced by readout noise, low S/N detection of sources and other variances due to exposure time.

We then compute a variant of the Mean Squared Error (MSE) algorithm used in the AmphiIndex image comparison code used for comparing images taken of amphibians. One description of how the MSE measures the similarity between images can be found at This similarity index is sensitive to small offsets between exposures, as well as differences in noise, overall S/N, and even presence of cosmic-rays. In contrast, the Hamming-distance is not as sensitive to noise. Therefore, we compare the MSE similarity with the Hamming distance and take the minimum of the two values as a more robust measure of the similarity of the images. Both values share one key characteristic: values > 1.0 indicate more pixels are different than similar. The code takes the maximum value of the similarity indices computed for the total drizzle product compared to all the single drizzle products as the final measure of the similarity. If this value is less than 1.0, then this WCS is considered to have passed the similarity check.

Updating the Trailer File

Associations where there are problems with the alignment will cause this verification to fail since the sources will not be ‘as sharp’ based on the LoG operator. As a result, it can flag situations where even sub-pixel offsets down less than 0.5 pixels are identified. For the default pipeline alignment, failure at this point is only noted in the log with the hope that later alignment efforts will resolve the problem affecting the original input data as noted in this check.

Applying A Priori WCS Solutions

A priori WCS solutions defined for use with HST data refer to improvements to the WCS solutions that were pre-computed. As of 2020, there were 2 primary sources of a priori WCS solutions:

  • GSC240: correcting the previous guide star coordinates to the GAIA frame
  • HSC30: corrections derived using the Hubble Source Catalog(HSC) coordinates cross-matched to the GAIA catalog

The updated a priori solutions are stored as headerlets in the database. The headerlet format allows them to be applied directly to the exposure using the STWCS package while requiring very little storage space (typically, < 120Kb per headerlet). More details on the headerlet can be found at

GSC240: GAIA and the HST Guide Stars

Observations taken prior to October 2017 used guide star coordinates which were based on guide star coordinates derived primarily from ground-based observations. This resulted in an uncertainty of 1 arcsecond in the absolute pointing of the telescope for any given observation. The development and availability of the space-based GAIA astrometric catalog finally allowed for the guide star coordinates to be known to better than 10 milli-arcseconds in 2015 with proper motion uncertainties increasing by 5 milli-arcseconds per year on average. The GAIA astrometric catalog was then cross-matched to the HST guide star catalog used for pointing the telescope, and corrections were determined. These corrections were then applied to every HST observation taken before Oct 2017 as if the telescope used the GAIA coordinates originally to generate updated WCS solutions to describe the GAIA-based pointing. These updated WCS solutions were labelled with ‘GSC240’ in the WCSNAME and stored in an astrometry database to be applied on-demand to all observations taken before Oct 2017.

These solutions will not result in perfect alignment to the GAIA catalog, due to temporal uncertainties in the calibration of the instrument’s field of view relative to the FGS’s used to point and to guid the telescope during the observations. This uncertainty can be up to 0.5 arcseconds, but it still represents a significant improvement in the absolute astrometry from the 1-sigma of 1 arcsecond for previous WCS solutions.

All observations taken after Oct 2017 already used guide-star coordinates based on GAIA, so no new WCS was needed as it would simply be the same as the pipeline default WCS.

HSC30: Hubble Source Catalog WCSs

The Hubble Source Catalog(HSC) ( developed a comprehensive catalog of a majority of the sources observed in Hubble data. This catalog was then cross-matched to the GAIA catalog to determine improved positions for those sources. By using the updated positions from Version 3.0 of the HSC and comparing them to the original positions based on the pipeline default WCS solutions, updates were derived for all observations with sources from the HSC. The updates were then used to recompute the WCS solutions for those observations which were labelled as ‘HSC30’ in the WCSNAME and stored in the astrometry database.

Separate Directories

One mechanism used to enable comparisons of various WCS solutions is to keep copies of the observations with different types of WCS solutions in separate directories. Up until this point in the processing, the data has been processed in the directory where the processing was started. In order to keep the a priori solutions separate, a sub-directory gets created with name based on the association table rootname or the rootname of the single exposure being processed using the convention: <rootname>_apriori. All the FLC (or FLT, if no FLC files are present), and ASN file (if processing an association) are copied from the main directory into the new sub-directory and the process moves to the sub-directory to continue its processing.

Applying the A Priori Solutions

Application of these a priori WCS solutions simply involves running the updatewcs task with use_db=True (the default setting). This queries the astrometry database and retrieves the headerlets for all the a priori solutions. The database also reports what solution is flagged as the best solution, which will typically result in the closest alignment to GAIA. All the headerlets get appended as new extensions to the observations FITS file, then the a priori solution flagged as best gets applied to replace the active or primary WCS in the observation after saving a copy of the original primary WCS. Other solutions could be provided by the database that were derived directly from the observation itself, perhaps in previous pipeline processing runs. These solutions are retained, but not applied at this point since it is not clear whether the distortion model has changed from those saved in the database, or whether the pipeline software has been improved to provide a more accurate or more robust solution. Finally, we are only interested in seeing whether there are any issues in applying the pre-defined a priori corrections.

Generating A Priori Products

The FLC images updated with the a priori WCS solutions now get combined using astrodrizzle. If the pipeline default focus verification succeeded, then resetbits will be set to 0 so that the previous DQ flags can be used. If the verification failed, though, resetbits gets set to 4096 so that the cosmic-rays can be identified and flagged fresh based on the alignment provided by the a priori WCS solutions.

This processing will result in a total combined drizzle product based on the a priori solution.

Evaluating Alignment

Confirming that the relative alignment between the images in the association was maintained with the a priori WCS now can be done. Although the a priori WCS solutions are vetted for accuracy, HST has taken a few hundred thousand different exposures in dozens of configurations and not all of those exposures were taken exactly as planned. Therefore, considerable effort goes into trying to verify that the alignment between the images has been maintained.

This verification starts by computing the focus index and similarity values for the total drizzle product and the single drizzle products using the same code used to verify the pipeline default WCS drizzle product. It then extends to include computing the similarity index between the a priori drizzle products and the pipeline default drizzle products. This will attempt to measure whether or not the a priori alignment is significantly different than the presumably good pipeline default alignment. Once again, if the similarity index is less than 1, the a priori alignment is considered to be successful.

Keeping the A Priori Alignment

Should all the verification steps indicate a successful alignment, the a priori WCS solution should be retained as an improved WCS solution over the pipeline default WCS. This gets done by simply copying the calibrated images which have been updated with the WCS solution (both the FLC and FLT images) from the <rootname>_apriori sub-directory to the main processing directory. This will replace the FLC and FLT files with the pipeline default solutions so that should no other WCS prove to be better, the a priori WCS solution will end up being used to generate the final drizzle products which get archived and provided to the end-user.

Performing An A Posteriori Alignment

The ultimate goal of this processing would be to have the input observations aligned as closely to an astrometric standard coordinate system as much as possible. The highest quality, highest precision astrometric catalog available would be the GAIA astrometric catalog and this processing seeks to align HST observations as closely to that catalog’s coordinate system.

The a priori solutions provide an update to the astrometry based on either the guide stars used (the GSC240 and related solutions) or manually verified alignment of sources from the observations field-of-view performed using the Hubble Source Catalog (the HSC30 solution). Unfortunately, both of these types of solutions fail to account for sources of astrometric error which can still affect the observations and result in offsets from the GAIA system due to updates in the distortion calibration for the instruments or uncertainties in the position of the detectors field-of-view relative to the Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS) and the guide stars used for taking the observaitons.

The only way to correct for those effects remains to identify sources from the observations and perform a fit to the GAIA catalog directly. This is called an a posteriori solution when it can be done successfully. However, this can only be performed for observations which contain enough detectable sources, specifically sources found in the GAIA catalog. Not all observations meet this criteria either due to exposure time (too long or too short), wavelength of observation, filter bandpass (narrowband vs wide-band) and even number of sources in the field. This processing code makes no assumptions about the possibility of success and tries to perform this a posteriori fit on all observations.

Copying the Observations

Copies of the observaions are made in a sub-directory named after the input file used to start the processing with the convention:


For example, if the association icw402010_asn.fits was being processed, this directory would be named icw402010_aposteriori.

All the calibrated FLC and/or FLT images along with the ASN file are copied into this sub-directory. These files, at this point, have the best available WCS at this time which is most likely an a priori solution. This improves the chance that the a posteriori fit will work by minimizing the offset from GAIA which needs to be searched to find a cross-match with the GAIA sources in the field-of-view.

Aligning the Observations

The alignment process gets performed using the perform_align() function from the drizzlepac/align module. This function performs the following steps in an attempt to perform an a posteriori fit to GAIA:

  • Evaluates all the input observations to identify any which can not be aligned, such as GRISM or SCAN mode observations. For a full description of all the type of observations that can be filtered out, see haputils.analyze.

  • Compute a 2D background for all the observations using photutils

  • Determine a PSF kernel from the detectable sources in the image, if possible.

  • Segments the image after applying the 2D background to identify as many sources as possible above a threshold using photutils.segmentation

  • Performs source centering using photutils.DAOStarFinder

  • Keeps the position of the single brightest source nearest the center of the segment as the catalog position for each segment’s object.

  • Checks whether there are enough sources to potentially get a viable linear fit.

    • If not, the attempt at an a posteriori fit quits without updating the WCS of the input files.
  • Queries the GAIA DR2 catalog through the STScI web service to obtain a catalog of GAIA sources that overlap the field-of-view of the combined set of observations. This catalog will serve as the reference catalog for the fitting process.

    • If there are not enough GAIA sources overlapping these observations, then the fit attempt quits without updating the WCS of the input files.
  • Provide the source catalogs for each input image, each input images’s WCS, and the GAIA reference catalog to function align_wcs() in the tweakwcs package.

    • This function cross-matches the source catalog from each image with the GAIA catalog and performs an rscale linear fit (as defined by runastrodriz), then updates the input WCS with the results of the fit upon success. See the tweakwcs readthedocs pages for more details.
    • The function align_wcs is first called without using the GAIA reference catalog in order to perform a relative alignment between the observations.
    • The function align_wcs is then called with the GAIA catalog as the reference in order to finally perform a single fit to the GAIA catalog for all the observations at the same time.
  • Evaluate the success/failure state of the fit and the quality of any successful fit.

  • Repeat the fit with tweakwcs.align_wcs with other GAIA catalogs; including GAIA DR1 or any others specified for use in runastrodriz itself.

  • Select the fit to the GAIA catalog which results in the lowest RMS.

    • Some fields are dominated by external galaxies with no proper motion for which GAIA DR1 without proper motions provides the best fit (lowest RMS).
    • Other fields are dominated by local galactic stars with appreciable proper motions best accounted for (still with some error) by the GAIA DR2 catalog with its proper motions.
  • Keep the WCS’s updated with the best solution and update the WCSNAME keyword for those WCSs to reflect the type of fit that was successful and the catalog that was used.

The result of this lengthy process is a set of WCS objects which have been updated with a fit to a GAIA catalog representing an a posteriori solution.

Generate the Aligned Drizzle Products

Successful alignment of the WCSs to a GAIA catalog means that these a posteriori updated exposures can be combined to create a drizzled product using AstroDrizzle.

Verify A Posteriori Alignment

These newly updated drizzle products still need to be evaluated to insure that the fit performed to GAIA maintained relative alignment between the images as well. Mis-alignment of the images to each other can result from too few sources being used for the fit imprinting the errors in those source positions on the relative alignment. The verification used is the same focus and similarity checks that were performed on the a priori updated drizzle products and even the pipeline default drizzle products.

A Posteriori Failure

At any number of points throughout this computation and verification, it could end up quitting and flagging this attempt as a failure. If this happens, no updated WCS solutions get created or saved and processing returns to the parent directory while deleting the entire <dataset>_aposteriori directory along with all the mis-aligned or un-alignable files. This allows the processing to revert to using the previously verified WCS solutions as the best WCS solution available for these observations.

A Posteriori Success

Successfully fitting to GAIA can only be declared after the verification process returned values indicating good alignment in the drizzle product. The processing would then copy these a posteriori-updated input exposures from the sub-directory these computations were being performed in based up to the parent directory to replace the previously updated versions of the input files. This entire sub-directory then gets deleted, unless the processing was being run in debug mode.

Creation of Final Aligned Products

The starting directory now contains updated input FLC/FLT files based on WCSs which have been verified to have maintained relative alignment and with alignment as close to the GAIA astrometric coordinate system as possible. These exposures get processed by AstroDrizzle to create the final, combined drizzle products for the user and for archiving at STScI in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST). These products include the calibrated drizzle(DRZ) products as well as any CTE-corrected drizzle(DRC) products depending on what input exposures are available.