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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.
The redshifted 21cm line of neutral hydrogen (Hi), potentially observable at low radio frequencies (~50–200 MHz), should be a powerful probe of the physical conditions of the inter-galactic medium during Cosmic Dawn and the Epoch of Reionisation (EoR). The sky-averaged Hi signal is expected to be extremely weak (~100 mK) in comparison to the foreground of up to 104 K at the lowest frequencies of interest. The detection of such a weak signal requires an extremely stable, well characterised system and a good understanding of the foregrounds. Development of a nearly perfectly (~mK accuracy) calibrated total power radiometer system is essential for this type of experiment. We present the BIGHORNS (Broadband Instrument for Global HydrOgen ReioNisation Signal) experiment which was designed and built to detect the sky-averaged Hi signal from the EoR at low radio frequencies. The BIGHORNS system is a mobile total power radiometer, which can be deployed in any remote location in order to collect radio frequency interference (RFI) free data. The system was deployed in remote, radio quiet locations in Western Australia and low RFI sky data have been collected. We present a description of the system, its characteristics, details of data analysis, and calibration. We have identified multiple challenges to achieving the required measurement precision, which triggered two major improvements for the future system.
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