Installation of the MPIfR PAF on Parkes

The on-going development of Phased Array Feed (PAF) technology is a high strategic priority for CASS, and incorporates PAF development for the SKA, and potentially other telescopes, including Parkes. The Max Planck Institute for RadioAstronomy (MPIfR) is purchasing a PAF from CASS that will be commissioned by installing it on the Parkes 64m telescope. This in situ testing is both very closely aligned with the interests of CASS in order to evaluate prospects for the future and ensures a fully characterised PAF can be delivered to MPIfR.

The PAF will be installed by removing the 20cm multibeam receiver for an extended period, as was announced to users in the proposal calls for 2015APR and 2015OCT. It is envisaged the PAF may remain in the Focus Cabin for ~8 months. In order to ensure that on-going pulsar timing programs can continue during this period, it is planned for there to be regular (~monthly) receiver changes during this period alternating between the 10cm/50cm receiver and the H-OH receiver. It is currently envisaged that the 20cm multibeam receiver will be re-installed once the PAF is removed.

Early in 2016 there will be a shutdown of ~2 weeks during which the 20cm multibeam (MB20) receiver will be removed and the PAF installed. A GPU cluster and Ethernet switch will be installed at Parkes as the backend of the PAF system, and the processing software effort is being coordinated by MPIfR. Following the shutdown, there will be several ~8 hour blocks of time each week allocated to the testing and characterising of the PAF. The blocking out of time for PAF commissioning will naturally result in less time being available on Parkes for astronomical observing. Every effort will be made to strike an acceptable balance between PAF testing, regular maintenance periods, and astronomical observing throughout the semester. The commissioning of the PAF is expected to continue throughout 2015OCT and it will not be possible for proposers to request observations using the PAF.

By 2016APR, it may be possible for some astronomical observing to be attempted. However, the PAF will not be offered as a National Facility instrument: the control software, documentation and available support will not be to National Facility standard. Furthermore, it currently appears unlikely that the PAF will be able to rotate (or “parallactify”) as the MB20 does, although it may be possible to do this at the beamforming stage. Collaborative projects with MPIfR and CASS are encouraged and can be explored with the people listed below. Proposers should be aware that only a limited number of observing modes will have been tested and that a significant contribution of resources towards firmware or software development is likely to be required. Teams wishing to use the PAF will need to submit an observing proposal at the regular mid-December 2015 proposal deadline for the peer-reviewed use of National Facility time in 2016APR, explicitly addressing these resourcing issues (after having discussed their proposals in advance with MPIfR and CASS). MPIfR are planning to lead a proposal to use the PAF for FRB detection, and welcome collaborators who can contribute resources to this project.

The regular conditions regarding a proprietary period for the data will apply. CASS will consider the archiving requirements for this data. In line with current practice, data may be averaged or data of very limited interest not archived.

For further information, or to discuss possible collaborative projects, contact

  • Olaf Wucknitz ‎(wucknitz[at] at MPIfR,
  • Tasso Tzioumis (tasso.tzioumis[at] at CASS for technical information,
  • Simon Johnston (simon.johnston[at] at CASS for scientific information.


Last modified: 10-sep-2015 pge