Spectral Line Observing
Current->Revised OSS Guidelines
- An Overview of the EVLA
(last paragraph) The EVLA correlator will be extremely powerful and flexible. Details of the correlator configurations being offered for EVLA early science during the period Sep 2011 - Dec 012 (a full D→A configuration cycle) are described in Correlator Configurations. It is important to realise that the EVLA correlator is fundamentally a spectral line correlator. The days of separate “continuum” and “spectral line” modes of the VLA correlator are over, and all observations with the EVLA will be “spectral line.” This has implications for how observations are set up, and users who may be used to continuum observing with the VLA are strongly advised to consult Correlator Configurations.
- Limitations on Imaging Performance
(Sidelobes from Strong Sources) An extension of the previous section is to very strong sources located anywhere in the sky, such as the Sun (especially when a flare is active), or when observing with a few tens of degrees of the very strong sources Cygnus A and Casseopeia A. Image degradation is especially notable at lower frequencies, shorter configurations, and when using narrow-bandwidth observations (especially in spectral line work) where chromatic aberration cannot be utilized to reduce the disturbances. In general, the only relief is to include the disturbing sources in the imaging, or to observe when these objects are not in the viewable hemisphere.
- Correlator Configurations
All observations with the EVLA correlator should be treated as traditional VLA spectral line observations, in that they will require observation of a bandpass calibrator. They may also require observation of a delay calibrator. Users should contact NRAO staff for advice on setting up observations with the EVLA correlator.
Observing Preparation Recommendations
- Bandpass Setup
All observations with the EVLA---even those with the goal of observing continuum---require bandpass calibration. A bandpass calibrator should be bright enough, or observed long enough, so that the bandpass calibration does not significantly contribute to the noise in the image. This implies that, for a bandpass calibrator with flux density Scal observed for a time tcal and a science target with flux density Sobj observed for a time tobj, should be greater than . How many times greater will be determined by one's science goals and the practicalities of the observations, but should be greater by at least a factor of two.
The bandpass calibrator should also be a point source or have a well-known model. At low frequencies, the absolute flux density calibrators (3C48, 3C147, or 3C286) are quite bright and in many cases can double as the bandpass calibrator. However, at high frequencies, these sources have only moderate flux densities of ~0.5--3 Jy, translating into a potentially noisy bandpass solution.
The stability of bandpasses as a function of time is of concern for high-dynamic-range spectral work. We have found that most antennas show bandpasses that are stable to a few (~2--4) parts in a thousand over a period of several (~4--8) hours [L BAND?].
Dramatic jumps in the bandpass structure (of order a few parts in a hundred) can occur at attenuator changes. The observer can track down such attenuator changes in their data using the switched power information; the On - Off power ('PDIF' in AIPS) wil show a clear discontinuity. For this reason, it behooves the spectral line observer to observe a bandpass calibrator at least twice during their observations. Multiple observations will provide a check that all is well on most antennas and a mechanism for identifying any "problem" antennas. However, we do not expect that interpolating in time between consecutive bandpass solutions will bear much fruit for the observer. The low-level variations observed on some antennas tend to not be smooth functions of time and will likely not be corrected with interpolation.
If there is only one observation of the bandpass calibrator, the observer should be careful to minimize the number of shadowed antennas, as an antenna without a bandpass determined for it will essentially be flagged for the rest of the observation.
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