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One of the major priorities of international radio astronomy is to study the early universe through the detection of the 21 cm HI line from the epoch of reionisation (EoR). Due to the weak nature of the 21 cm signal, an important part in the detection of the EoR is removing contaminating foregrounds from our observations as they are multiple orders of magnitude brighter. In order to achieve this, sky maps spanning a wide range of frequencies and angular scales are required for calibration and foreground subtraction. Complementing the existing low-frequency sky maps, we have constructed a Southern Sky map through spherical harmonic transit interferometry utilising the Engineering Development Array 2 (EDA2), a Square Kilometre Array (SKA) low-frequency array prototype system. We use the m-mode formalism to create an all-sky map at 159 MHz with an angular resolution of 3 degrees, with data from the EDA2 providing information over +60 degrees to –90 degrees in declination. We also introduce a new method for visualising and quantifying how the baseline distribution of an interferometer maps to the spherical harmonics and discuss how prior information can be used to constrain spherical harmonic components that the interferometer is not sensitive to.
We describe the design and performance of the Engineering Development Array, which is a low-frequency radio telescope comprising 256 dual-polarisation dipole antennas working as a phased array. The Engineering Development Array was conceived of, developed, and deployed in just 18 months via re-use of Square Kilometre Array precursor technology and expertise, specifically from the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope. Using drift scans and a model for the sky brightness temperature at low frequencies, we have derived the Engineering Development Array’s receiver temperature as a function of frequency. The Engineering Development Array is shown to be sky-noise limited over most of the frequency range measured between 60 and 240 MHz. By using the Engineering Development Array in interferometric mode with the Murchison Widefield Array, we used calibrated visibilities to measure the absolute sensitivity of the array. The measured array sensitivity matches very well with a model based on the array layout and measured receiver temperature. The results demonstrate the practicality and feasibility of using Murchison Widefield Array-style precursor technology for Square Kilometre Array-scale stations. The modular architecture of the Engineering Development Array allows upgrades to the array to be rolled out in a staged approach. Future improvements to the Engineering Development Array include replacing the second stage beamformer with a fully digital system, and to transition to using RF-over-fibre for the signal output from first stage beamformers.
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