Hardware correlator phase closure clears the way to BETA

An external view of CSIRO's MRO Support Facility.

9 July 2013

The ASKAP team has made a great step forward in commissioning activities by achieving phase closure with three ASKAP antenna systems and the ASKAP FPGA-based hardware correlator at the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science headquarters in Sydney.

The lab testing resulted in successful correlation of three antenna systems and the hardware correlator, with each of the three systems fed with white noise from a common RF noise source to simulate a single strong continuum source in a blank sky. The 'white light fringe' that was seen at a specific delay on each baseline was exactly as expected.

The result is an important milestone for the project, as it means that commissioning activities can now progress beyond the interim data-capture and software correlator scheme used in previous ASKAP commissioning runs at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).

The completion of these tests now clears the way for the deployment of the ASKAP hardware correlator and firmware to the MRO for onsite integration and commissioning.

The installation of the hardware correlator at the MRO will be the next vital step in the development and commissioning of the ASKAP telescope, as it offers higher sensitivity, bandwidth and spectral resolution not previously possible in similar tests with the software correlator.

Within the coming months, members of the ASKAP team will travel to the MRO to progress commissioning of the first six ASKAP MkI phased array feed (PAF) receiver systems, known collectively as the Boolardy Engineering Test Array, or BETA.

With the BETA hardware correlator in place, initial tests of the ASKAP Science Processing Pipeline may also be able to commence.

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