Here we give an overview of the reduction process, and review some of the
basic decisions that you will have to make during the reduction of the data.
We now consider some questions that you should ask yourself before the
- Is this observation more than a single-pointing,
continuum experiment? Hopefully the answer to this is obvious!
This manual contains special chapters addressing the reduction
of spectral line (Chapter 16), mosaic (Chapter 21)
and pulsar-bin mode (Chapter 24) observations. You are
encouraged to review appropriate chapters before you start
reducing your data.
- Will I want to deconvolve my images? Deconvolution is the process
of removing artifacts due to the incomplete sampling in the u-v plane.
You will want to deconvolve for observations where the source is stronger
than a few times the noise limit. That is, unless you are doing a detection
experiment, you are likely to want to deconvolve. Deconvolution is addressed
in Chapter 14.
- Will I want to self-calibrate the data? Self-calibration is
the process of determining the antenna-based gain function from the
source itself. For this to be possible, your signal needs to be about 5
to 10 times stronger than the thermal noise when integrated over the
self-calibration solution interval (typically 15 seconds to 5 minutes).
For the old ATCA correlator in continuum mode, this means a source which contains at
least 100 to 200 mJy on most baselines. For the CABB correlator, self-calibration
is possible with a 15 second solution interval using sources with as little as 10 mJy
of flux density on most baselines. Self-calibration is discussed
in Chapter 15.
- As I have a continuum experiment, do I want to use multi-frequency
techniques? Even in continuum mode, the ATCA produces multiple channels
of data. As the fractional bandwidth can be quite significant,
you may be making a significant approximation if
you average all these channels into a single channel (the so-called
`channel-0' dataset). The result will be
poorer u-v coverage and bandwidth smearing. If you are interested in
high dynamic range imaging, or if a good beam is important, and you are
observing at 21, 13 and possibly 6 cm with the old correlator, or at any cm
wavelength with CABB (and even at 12mm),
then it is best not to average your data into a single
channel. Rather you can calibrate and form a single image directly using the
multichannel data. This practise is known as multi-frequency synthesis.
Multi-frequency synthesis can be taken a few steps further with the ATCA.
As two IFs can be measured simultaneously, these two IFs can be
combined in the imaging stage to further enhance both sensitivity and
u-v coverage. As the ATCA can frequency switch rapidly, it is
possible to time share between different frequency settings. This involves a
trade-off between tangential and radial u-v gaps.
- Should I average my data in time or frequency? The reason to
average your data is to reduce your disk consumption and to increase the
speed of the various processing programs. If these practical considerations
are important, you may consider averaging your data in time and frequency.
In this case, you probably want to do this as early as possible in the
reduction process - after the initial flagging.
Frequency averaging is generally only applicable for continuum experiments
and only if you are not going to be doing multi-frequency synthesis.
You might also think twice about averaging if interference was a problem
during the observation. You may have to go back and do some more flagging
Averaging in time can be performed when observing with short arrays (i.e.
when the 6 km antenna is not used). A conservative rule is that you should
not average longer than 90/d seconds, where d is the array length in km.
If you observe with a short
array and are not interested in long baselines for the program source, you
probably still want to use antenna 6 when determining the initial calibration.
Despite this, d is the array length of interest for the program source,
not the calibrators.
Nor should you average for longer than the antenna-gain solution interval
(unless you have finished calibrating, and
are not going to self-calibrate). If you have a strong source, and the phase
stability is poor, you should not average in time.
Both averaging in frequency and time are performed by uvaver
(see Section 10.5).
ATCA Data Reduction Strategy
Figure 7.1 gives a flow chart of the normal steps involved
in reduction of ATCA data. Note that this is somewhat abbreviated by
necessity - additional flow-charts in subsequent chapters give more
detail and describe some of the variations.
We will now consider each step in the flow-chart in turn.
- Data from the ATCA is written in ``RPFITS'' format - an ATNF-specific
format - and a special task (atlod) is needed to read it.
Loading your data into Miriad is described in Chapter 8.
- Data editing (flagging) can be very time consuming, especially if you do are
affected by interference. The Miriad flagging tasks are
described in Chapter 10.
- The actual calibration steps can be the most confusing steps, as
there are a large variety of paths that can be followed. Only
the most frequently trodden paths are described in Chapter 12.
- The task invert
takes a visibility dataset and forms either
a single image or an image cube (for spectral-line observations). It also
produces a point-spread function (dirty beam), ready for deconvolution.
See Chapter 13
- The main deconvolution tasks are clean, maxen
mfclean. Task clean, which is the most commonly used, attempts
to decompose your image into a number of delta functions. It can be
slow for images with a large amount of extended emission. An
alternative to clean
maxen, a maximum entropy-based deconvolution task. It tends to
be less robust and more difficult to run correctly. A third alternative
is mfclean. This is a derivative of the CLEAN algorithm, and
simultaneously determines a flux density and spectral index image. It is
only appropriate for multi-frequency synthesis experiments when more than
one observing band has been used, or for CABB data that has a large fractional
The deconvolution tasks are described in Chapter 14.
- As noted above, self-calibration is useful for determining
antenna gains directly from a strong program source. It is described in
- The deconvolution tasks produce an output image that is in units
of flux density per pixel. That is, the outputs are CLEAN component images.
converts these to flux density per CLEAN beam, and adds
back the residuals. This is covered in Chapter 14.
- At last, you are ready to display and think about your images!