'Bird-of-paradise' constellation sings a sweet tune for ASKAP

A close up of a radio receiver with the moon in the background.

A plot showing a radio image of the sky.

Above: The continuum image, produced with ASKAPsoft,
has an rms of around 300 uJy/beam and a field of view
of 30 square degrees. It contains over 1300 sources.
Credit: ASKAP Commissioning and Early Science (ACES) team.


15 April 2016

The first ever 36-beam image has been produced during commissioning activities for CSIRO’s ASKAP telescope, located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.

The radio image was produced using the nine ASKAP antennas recently installed with the new Mk II Phased Array Feed (PAF) receiver systems. The PAFs were configured with 36 dual-polarisation beams arranged in a 6x6 square footprint and rotated on the sky. The team observed a single field for 11 hours, with 48 MHz of bandwidth centred at 939.5 MHz.

The field targeted for this observation is in the Apus ('bird of paradise’) constellation. This is the same field previously used to produce the first multi-beam image ever made with ASKAP PAFs, and used to analyse the benefits of ASKAP’s third 'roll' axis. This area of the sky has become a ‘standard’ test field for the ACES team, due to its proximity to the South Celestial Pole and that it contains an arrangement of several strong sources.

The resulting continuum image was produced using ASKAP’s dedicated imaging package, known as ASKAPsoft, and at 30 square degrees is equivalent to the telescope’s full field of view.

ASKAPsoft will analyse the data that will flow in vast quantities from the completed ASKAP telescope – rates that no other current software package will be able to handle. The team runs ASKAPsoft on Galaxy, the real time computer housed in the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth.

This image not only represents that ASKAP’s newest receiver systems work, but also that ASKAPsoft has matured to deal with large quantities of data and produce images of the same high quality as other well-established software packages.

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