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We describe the performance of the Boolardy Engineering Test Array, the prototype for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope. Boolardy Engineering Test Array is the first aperture synthesis radio telescope to use phased array feed technology, giving it the ability to electronically form up to nine dual-polarisation beams. We report the methods developed for forming and measuring the beams, and the adaptations that have been made to the traditional calibration and imaging procedures in order to allow BETA to function as a multi-beam aperture synthesis telescope. We describe the commissioning of the instrument and present details of Boolardy Engineering Test Array’s performance: sensitivity, beam characteristics, polarimetric properties, and image quality. We summarise the astronomical science that it has produced and draw lessons from operating Boolardy Engineering Test Array that will be relevant to the commissioning and operation of the final Australian Square Kilometre Array Path telescope.
The recently completed HI mosaic survey of the Large Magellanic Cloud (Kim et al. 1997) reveals complex structure in the interstellar medium, including filaments, arcs, holes and shells. We have catalogued giant and supergiant HI shells and searched for correlations with Hα emission, using a new image taken with a camera lens mounted on the 16-inch telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.
This paper describes the first results from a 20 deg2 mosaic of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) in the λ21-cm line of neutral hydrogen. The mosaic consists of 320 separate pointings with the 375-m array of the Australia Telescope Compact Array. The angular resolution is 1′· 5 (26 pc, for a distance of 60 kpc) and the velocity resolution is l·6kms−1. The images reveal a structure of remarkable complexity, with much of the spatial power contained in high-brightness temperature compact knots and filaments. Numerous wind-blown ‘bubbles’ and ‘supershells’ are evident in the data, both inside and outside the stellar confines of the SMC. Some high-density H I regions are seen to correlate with Hα regions, indicating sites of current star formation. However, many high-column-density H I regions are devoid of optical emission and may represent regions of future star formation. These regions may be under-abundant in diffuse molecular gas due to the high radiation field and low metallicity of the SMC.
The Murchison Widefield Array is a Square Kilometre Array Precursor. The telescope is located at the Murchison Radio–astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. The MWA consists of 4 096 dipoles arranged into 128 dual polarisation aperture arrays forming a connected element interferometer that cross-correlates signals from all 256 inputs. A hybrid approach to the correlation task is employed, with some processing stages being performed by bespoke hardware, based on Field Programmable Gate Arrays, and others by Graphics Processing Units housed in general purpose rack mounted servers. The correlation capability required is approximately 8 tera floating point operations per second. The MWA has commenced operations and the correlator is generating 8.3 TB day−1 of correlation products, that are subsequently transferred 700 km from the MRO to Perth (WA) in real-time for storage and offline processing. In this paper, we outline the correlator design, signal path, and processing elements and present the data format for the internal and external interfaces.
Significant new opportunities for astrophysics and cosmology have been identified at low radio frequencies. The Murchison Widefield Array is the first telescope in the southern hemisphere designed specifically to explore the low-frequency astronomical sky between 80 and 300 MHz with arcminute angular resolution and high survey efficiency. The telescope will enable new advances along four key science themes, including searching for redshifted 21-cm emission from the EoR in the early Universe; Galactic and extragalactic all-sky southern hemisphere surveys; time-domain astrophysics; and solar, heliospheric, and ionospheric science and space weather. The Murchison Widefield Array is located in Western Australia at the site of the planned Square Kilometre Array (SKA) low-band telescope and is the only low-frequency SKA precursor facility. In this paper, we review the performance properties of the Murchison Widefield Array and describe its primary scientific objectives.
Digital signal processing is one of many valuable tools for suppressing unwanted signals or inter-ference. Building hardware processing engines seems to be the way to best implement some classes of interference suppression but is, unfortunately, expensive and time-consuming, especially if several miti-gation techniques need to be compared. Simulations can be useful, but are not a substitute for real data. CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility has recently commenced a ‘software radio telescope’ project designed to fill the gap between dedicated hardware processors and pure simulation. In this approach, real telescope data are recorded coherently, then processed offline. This paper summarises the current contents of a freely available database of base band recorded data that can be used to experiment with signal processing solutions. It includes data from the following systems: single dish, multi-feed receiver; single dish with reference antenna; and an array of six 22 m antennas with and without a reference antenna. Astronomical sources such as OH masers, pulsars and continuum sources subject to interfering signals were recorded. The interfering signals include signals from the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and its Russian equivalent (GLONASS), television, microwave links, a low-Earth-orbit satellite, various other transmitters, and signals leaking from local telescope systems with fast clocks. The data are available on compact disk, allowing use in general purpose computers or as input to laboratory hardware prototypes.
The parameters of a new Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) mosaic of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) in the 21-cm line of neutral hydrogen are described. A preliminary peak-brightness-temperature image of the whole of the LMC, and a detailed image of the region around the supergiant shells LMC 4 and 5 is shown.
The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is one of three Square Kilometre Array Precursor telescopes and is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in the Murchison Shire of the mid-west of Western Australia, a location chosen for its extremely low levels of radio frequency interference. The MWA operates at low radio frequencies, 80–300 MHz, with a processed bandwidth of 30.72 MHz for both linear polarisations, and consists of 128 aperture arrays (known as tiles) distributed over a ~3-km diameter area. Novel hybrid hardware/software correlation and a real-time imaging and calibration systems comprise the MWA signal processing backend. In this paper, the as-built MWA is described both at a system and sub-system level, the expected performance of the array is presented, and the science goals of the instrument are summarised.
We present the results of an HI aperture synthesis mosaic of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), made by combining data from 1344 separate pointing centers using the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA). The resolution of the mosaiced image is 1′ (15 pc, using a distance to the LMC of 50 kpc).
We use the spatial power spectrum for a statistical study of HI in the SMC in order to probe the intrinsic topology of the ISM. A remarkable power-law fit to the spatial power spectrum was found, supporting an alternative ISM model having a fractal nature resulting from interstellar turbulence.
Mid and far IR measurements of polarized dust continuum emission from within the central 5 pc of the Galaxy have been cited as evidence for magnetic alignment of dust grains. Indirect arguments have been used to infer a B-field strength of ~ 10 mG. The presence of such high B-field would play a significant role in the hydrodynamics of the ionized and neutral gas within the region. To obtain a direct measurement of the line-of-sight B-field strength, we conducted VLA observations to try and detect the Zeeman splitting in the 1667 MHz OH absorption line against the SgrA radio source. We observed with A/B configuration, 256 1.1 km s−1 channels, and 3 arcsec resolution. In addition, both left and right circular polarizations were acquired simultaneously. We used the maximum likelihood statistical analysis technique for low signal-to-noise ratio Zeeman data discussed by Sault, Killeen, Loushin, and Zmuidzinas (1989). Analysis of the resulting absorption line spectra is complicated by the many foreground clouds. Excluding the foreground clouds by judicious selection of spectral windows, the strongest absorption by the molecular material closest (in projection) to SgrA∗ is in what Güsten et al. (1987) refer to as the redshifted cloud (it does not appear to be partaking in the general rotation of the circum-nuclear disk but is thought to be in the local vicinity of SgrA∗). Preliminary analysis reveals no detections, and 3-σ upper limits to the line-of-sight magnetic field throughout the red-shifted cloud of approximately 4 mG. By careful simulation of the lines (Gaussians are quite good approximations to these broad [40 km s−1] lines) in select spatial regions of the redshifted cloud, we find that a line-of-sight field as strong as 10 mG should be clearly detectable at about the 10-σ level if it is present. Our data do not show fields at this level.
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