The power of a radio telescope, like the power of an optical telescope, is directly related to the region of sky that it can efficiently survey in a single "image". At optical wavelengths the advent of multi-pixel detectors has revolutionized astronomical science. Radio telescopes have lagged behind in this pixel-count, for technical reasons, but now dedicated efforts are underway to close some of this ground. This program aims to continue the development of a closely analogous technical advance for radio wavelengths, which will permit close-packed arrays of radio-wavelength detectors in the telescope focal plane, and thus well-sampled pictures of astrophysical targets in the sky.
The approach used here is to design and construct a high-performance phased array feed (PAF). The project aims to develop, then field and utilize a working system on the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), although the technology is of interest at a very wide range of telescopes. The performance of the finished system is anticipated to be the highest in the world, and this will potentially also be a world-leading effort in terms of the timing with which the system could be fielded. A successful system would triple the L-band mapping speed of the GBT. Associated issues, such as interference mitigation and signal processing, will be explored.
This project will help to maintain US leadership in an emerging and important area of radio technology, particularly in signal processing and algorithm development, and thus maintain competitiveness within the phased array community. This effort will include substantial training for the next generation of engineers through involvement of undergraduate and graduate students in mentored research. Student research assistants will spend several weeks or months at NRAO facilities to become familiar with astronomical instrumentation in a "hands-on" fashion, learning skills critical to the US scientific infrastructure.
Funding for this project is being provided by NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences through its Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation program.