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Addressing flux suppression, radio frequency interference, and selection of optimal solution intervals during radio interferometric calibration

**Authors:**Sob, Ulrich Armel Mbou**Date:**2020**Subjects:**CubiCal (Software) , Radio -- Interference , Imaging systems in astronomy , Algorithms , Astronomical instruments -- Calibration , Astronomy -- Data processing**Language:**English**Type:**Thesis , Doctoral , PhD**Identifier:**http://hdl.handle.net/10962/147714 , vital:38663**Description:**The forthcoming Square Kilometre Array is expected to provide answers to some of the most intriguing questions about our Universe. However, as it is already noticeable from MeerKAT and other precursors, the amounts of data produced by these new instruments are significantly challenging to calibrate and image. Calibration of radio interferometric data is usually biased by incomplete sky models and radio frequency interference (RFI) resulting in calibration artefacts that limit the dynamic range and image fidelity of the resulting images. One of the most noticeable of these artefacts is the formation of spurious sources which causes suppression of real emissions. Fortunately, it has been shown that calibration algorithms employing heavy-tailed likelihood functions are less susceptible to this due to their robustness against outliers. Leveraging on recent developments in the field of complex optimisation, we implement a robust calibration algorithm using a Student’s t likelihood function and Wirtinger derivatives. The new algorithm, dubbed the robust solver, is incorporated as a subroutine into the newly released calibration software package CubiCal. We perform statistical analysis on the distribution of visibilities and provide an insight into the functioning of the robust solver and describe different scenarios where it will improve calibration. We use simulations to show that the robust solver effectively reduces the amount of flux suppressed from unmodelled sources both in direction independent and direction dependent calibration. Furthermore, the robust solver is shown to successfully mitigate the effects of low-level RFI when applied to a simulated and a real VLA dataset. Finally, we demonstrate that there are close links between the amount of flux suppressed from sources, the effects of the RFI and the employed solution interval during radio interferometric calibration. Hence, we investigate the effects of solution intervals and the different factors to consider in order to select adequate solution intervals. Furthermore, we propose a practical brute force method for selecting optimal solution intervals. The proposed method is successfully applied to a VLA dataset.**Full Text:**

**Authors:**Sob, Ulrich Armel Mbou**Date:**2020**Subjects:**CubiCal (Software) , Radio -- Interference , Imaging systems in astronomy , Algorithms , Astronomical instruments -- Calibration , Astronomy -- Data processing**Language:**English**Type:**Thesis , Doctoral , PhD**Identifier:**http://hdl.handle.net/10962/147714 , vital:38663**Description:**The forthcoming Square Kilometre Array is expected to provide answers to some of the most intriguing questions about our Universe. However, as it is already noticeable from MeerKAT and other precursors, the amounts of data produced by these new instruments are significantly challenging to calibrate and image. Calibration of radio interferometric data is usually biased by incomplete sky models and radio frequency interference (RFI) resulting in calibration artefacts that limit the dynamic range and image fidelity of the resulting images. One of the most noticeable of these artefacts is the formation of spurious sources which causes suppression of real emissions. Fortunately, it has been shown that calibration algorithms employing heavy-tailed likelihood functions are less susceptible to this due to their robustness against outliers. Leveraging on recent developments in the field of complex optimisation, we implement a robust calibration algorithm using a Student’s t likelihood function and Wirtinger derivatives. The new algorithm, dubbed the robust solver, is incorporated as a subroutine into the newly released calibration software package CubiCal. We perform statistical analysis on the distribution of visibilities and provide an insight into the functioning of the robust solver and describe different scenarios where it will improve calibration. We use simulations to show that the robust solver effectively reduces the amount of flux suppressed from unmodelled sources both in direction independent and direction dependent calibration. Furthermore, the robust solver is shown to successfully mitigate the effects of low-level RFI when applied to a simulated and a real VLA dataset. Finally, we demonstrate that there are close links between the amount of flux suppressed from sources, the effects of the RFI and the employed solution interval during radio interferometric calibration. Hence, we investigate the effects of solution intervals and the different factors to consider in order to select adequate solution intervals. Furthermore, we propose a practical brute force method for selecting optimal solution intervals. The proposed method is successfully applied to a VLA dataset.**Full Text:**

Modelling and investigating primary beam effects of reflector antenna arrays

**Authors:**Iheanetu, Kelachukwu**Date:**2020**Subjects:**Antennas, Reflector , Radio telescopes , Astronomical instruments -- Calibration , Holography , Polynomials , Very large array telescopes -- South Africa , Astronomy -- Data processing , Primary beam effects , Jacobi-Bessel pattern , Cassbeam software , MeerKAT telescope**Language:**English**Type:**Thesis , Doctoral , PhD**Identifier:**http://hdl.handle.net/10962/147425 , vital:38635**Description:**Signals received by a radio telescope are always affected by propagation and instrumental effects. These effects need to be modelled and accounted for during the process of calibration. The primary beam (PB) of the antenna is one major instrumental effect that needs to be accounted for during calibration. Producing accurate models of the radio antenna PB is crucial, and many approaches (like electromagnetic and optical simulations) have been used to model it. The cos³ function, Jacobi-Bessel pattern, characteristic basis function patterns (CBFP) and Cassbeam software (which uses optical ray-tracing with antenna parameters) have also been used to model it. These models capture the basic PB effects. Real-life PB patterns differ from these models due to various subtle effects such as mechanical deformation and effects introduced into the PB due to standing waves that exist in reflector antennas. The actual patterns can be measured via a process called astro-holography (or holography), but this is subject to noise, radio frequency interference, and other measurement errors. In our approach, we use principal component analysis and Zernike polynomials to model the PBs of the Very Large Array (VLA) and the MeerKAT telescopes from their holography measured data. The models have reconstruction errors of less than 5% at a compression factor of approximately 98% for both arrays. We also present steps that can be used to generate accurate beam models for any telescope (independent of its design) based on holography measured data. Analysis of the VLA measured PBs revealed that the graph of the beam sizes (and centre offset positions) have a fast oscillating trend (superimposed on a slow trend) with frequency. This spectral behaviour we termed ripple or characteristic effects. Most existing PB models that are used in calibrating VLA data do not incorporate these direction dependent effects (DDEs). We investigate the impact of using PB models that ignore this DDE in continuum calibration and imaging via simulations. Our experiments show that, although these effects translate into less than 10% errors in source flux recovery, they do lead to 30% reduction in the dynamic range. To prepare data for Hi and radio halo (faint emissions) science analysis requires carrying out foreground subtraction of bright (continuum) sources. We investigate the impact of using beam models that ignore these ripple effects during continuum subtraction. These show that using PB models which completely ignore the ripple effects in continuum subtraction could translate to error of more to 30% in the recovered Hi spectral properties. This implies that science inferences drawn from the results for Hi studies could have errors of the same magnitude.**Full Text:**

**Authors:**Iheanetu, Kelachukwu**Date:**2020**Subjects:**Antennas, Reflector , Radio telescopes , Astronomical instruments -- Calibration , Holography , Polynomials , Very large array telescopes -- South Africa , Astronomy -- Data processing , Primary beam effects , Jacobi-Bessel pattern , Cassbeam software , MeerKAT telescope**Language:**English**Type:**Thesis , Doctoral , PhD**Identifier:**http://hdl.handle.net/10962/147425 , vital:38635**Description:**Signals received by a radio telescope are always affected by propagation and instrumental effects. These effects need to be modelled and accounted for during the process of calibration. The primary beam (PB) of the antenna is one major instrumental effect that needs to be accounted for during calibration. Producing accurate models of the radio antenna PB is crucial, and many approaches (like electromagnetic and optical simulations) have been used to model it. The cos³ function, Jacobi-Bessel pattern, characteristic basis function patterns (CBFP) and Cassbeam software (which uses optical ray-tracing with antenna parameters) have also been used to model it. These models capture the basic PB effects. Real-life PB patterns differ from these models due to various subtle effects such as mechanical deformation and effects introduced into the PB due to standing waves that exist in reflector antennas. The actual patterns can be measured via a process called astro-holography (or holography), but this is subject to noise, radio frequency interference, and other measurement errors. In our approach, we use principal component analysis and Zernike polynomials to model the PBs of the Very Large Array (VLA) and the MeerKAT telescopes from their holography measured data. The models have reconstruction errors of less than 5% at a compression factor of approximately 98% for both arrays. We also present steps that can be used to generate accurate beam models for any telescope (independent of its design) based on holography measured data. Analysis of the VLA measured PBs revealed that the graph of the beam sizes (and centre offset positions) have a fast oscillating trend (superimposed on a slow trend) with frequency. This spectral behaviour we termed ripple or characteristic effects. Most existing PB models that are used in calibrating VLA data do not incorporate these direction dependent effects (DDEs). We investigate the impact of using PB models that ignore this DDE in continuum calibration and imaging via simulations. Our experiments show that, although these effects translate into less than 10% errors in source flux recovery, they do lead to 30% reduction in the dynamic range. To prepare data for Hi and radio halo (faint emissions) science analysis requires carrying out foreground subtraction of bright (continuum) sources. We investigate the impact of using beam models that ignore these ripple effects during continuum subtraction. These show that using PB models which completely ignore the ripple effects in continuum subtraction could translate to error of more to 30% in the recovered Hi spectral properties. This implies that science inferences drawn from the results for Hi studies could have errors of the same magnitude.**Full Text:**

Temperature dependence of the HartRAO pointing model

**Authors:**Copley, Charles Judd**Date:**2008**Subjects:**Astronomical instruments , Observatories -- South Africa , Telescopes , Astronomical observatories , Astronomy -- Data processing , Antennas (Electronics)**Language:**English**Type:**Thesis , Masters , MSc**Identifier:**vital:5491 , http://hdl.handle.net/10962/d1005277 , Astronomical instruments , Observatories -- South Africa , Telescopes , Astronomical observatories , Astronomy -- Data processing , Antennas (Electronics)**Description:**This thesis investigates control aspects of the Hartebeeshoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) antenna. The installation of a new 22 GHz receiver has required the pointing accuracy to be improved to less than 4 mdeg. The effect of thermal conditions on the the HartRAO antenna pointing offset is investigated using a variety of modelling techniques including simple geometric modelling, neural networks and Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Convincing results were obtained for the Declination pointing offset, where applying certain model predictions to observations resulted in an improvement in Declination pointing offset from 5.5 mdeg to 3.2 mdeg (≈50%). The Right Ascension pointing model was considerably less convincing with an improvement of approximately from 5.5 mdeg to 4.5 mdeg (≈20%) in the Right Ascension pointing offset. The Declination pointing offset can be modelled sufficiently well to reduce the pointing offset to less than 4 mdeg, however further investigation of the underlying causes is required for the Right Ascension pointing offset.**Full Text:**

**Authors:**Copley, Charles Judd**Date:**2008**Subjects:**Astronomical instruments , Observatories -- South Africa , Telescopes , Astronomical observatories , Astronomy -- Data processing , Antennas (Electronics)**Language:**English**Type:**Thesis , Masters , MSc**Identifier:**vital:5491 , http://hdl.handle.net/10962/d1005277 , Astronomical instruments , Observatories -- South Africa , Telescopes , Astronomical observatories , Astronomy -- Data processing , Antennas (Electronics)**Description:**This thesis investigates control aspects of the Hartebeeshoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) antenna. The installation of a new 22 GHz receiver has required the pointing accuracy to be improved to less than 4 mdeg. The effect of thermal conditions on the the HartRAO antenna pointing offset is investigated using a variety of modelling techniques including simple geometric modelling, neural networks and Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Convincing results were obtained for the Declination pointing offset, where applying certain model predictions to observations resulted in an improvement in Declination pointing offset from 5.5 mdeg to 3.2 mdeg (≈50%). The Right Ascension pointing model was considerably less convincing with an improvement of approximately from 5.5 mdeg to 4.5 mdeg (≈20%) in the Right Ascension pointing offset. The Declination pointing offset can be modelled sufficiently well to reduce the pointing offset to less than 4 mdeg, however further investigation of the underlying causes is required for the Right Ascension pointing offset.**Full Text:**

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