Self-calibration and improving image fidelity for ALMA and other radio interferometers

A. M. S. Richards, E. Moravec, S. Etoka, E. B. Fomalont, A. F. Pérez-Sánchez, M. C. Toribio, R. A. Laing

Submitted on 12 July 2022


This manual is intended to help ALMA and other interferometer users improve images by recognising limitations and how to overcome them and deciding when and how to use self-calibration. The images provided by the ALMA Science Archive are calibrated using standard observing and data processing routines, including a quality assurance process to make sure that the observations meet the proposer's science requirements. This may not represent the full potential of the data, since any interferometry observation can be imaged with a range of resolutions and surface brightness sensitivity. The separation between phase calibration source and target usually limits the target dynamic range to a few hundred (or 50--100 for challenging conditions) but if the noise in the target field has not reached the thermal limit, improvements may be possible using self-calibration. This often requires judgements based on the target properties and is not yet automated for all situations. This manual provides background on the instrumental and atmospheric causes of visibility phase and amplitude errors, their effects on imaging and how to improve the signal to noise ratio and image fidelity by self-calibration. We introduce the conditions for self-calibration to be useful and how to estimate calibration parameter values for a range of observing modes (continuum, spectral line etc.). We also summarise more general error recognition and other techniques to tackle imaging problems. The examples are drawn from ALMA interferometric data processed using CASA, but the principles are generally applicable to most similar cm to sub-mm imaging.


Comment: 76 pages, 55 figures, ALMA Memo series

Subject: Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics