A New Layout Optimization Technique for Interferometric Arrays, Applied to the Murchison Widefield Array
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This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2012 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.”
Antenna layout is an important design consideration for radio interferometers because it determines the quality of the snapshot point spread function (PSF, or array beam). This is particularly true for experiments targeting the 21-cm Epoch of Reionization signal as the quality of the foreground subtraction depends directly on the spatial dynamic range and thus the smoothness of the baseline distribution. Nearly all sites have constraints on where antennas can be placed even at the remote Australian location of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) there are rock outcrops, flood zones, heritages areas, emergency runways and trees. These exclusion areas can introduce spatial structure into the baseline distribution that enhances the PSF sidelobes and reduces the angular dynamic range. In this paper we present a new method of constrained antenna placement that reduces the spatial structure in the baseline distribution. This method not only outperforms random placement algorithms that avoid exclusion zones, but surprisingly outperforms random placement algorithms without constraints to provide what we believe are the smoothest constrained baseline distributions developed to date. We use our new algorithm to determine antenna placements for the originally planned MWA, and present the antenna locations, baseline distribution and snapshot PSF for this array choice.
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