Wednesday, July 3, 2013

1307.0386 (M. A. Garrett)

Radio Astronomy transformed: Aperture Arrays - Past, Present and Future    [PDF]

M. A. Garrett
Aperture Arrays have played a major role in radio astronomy since the field emerged from the results of long-distance communication tests performed by Karl Jansky in the early 1930's. The roots of this technology extend back beyond Marconi, although the first electronically scanned instrument only appeared in the run-up to World War II. After the war, phased arrays had a major impact in many walks of life, including astronomy and astrophysics. Major progress was made in understanding the nature of the radio sky, including the discovery of Pulsars. Despite these early successes, parabolic dishes largely replaced aperture arrays through the 1960's, and right up until the end of the 20th century. Technological advances in areas such as signal processing, digital electronics, low-power/high performance super-computing and large capacity data storage systems have recently led to a substantial revival in the use of aperture arrays - especially at frequencies below 300 MHz. Composed of simple antennas with commercially available low-noise room-temperature amplifiers, aperture arrays with huge collecting areas can be synthesized at relatively low cost. Multiple beams (or multiple fields-of-view) can be rapidly formed and electronically steered across the sky. As astronomers begin to grapple with these new possibilities, the next goal is to see these systems move to higher GHz frequencies. Aperture Arrays operating at frequencies of up to 1.7 GHz are expected to form a substantial part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
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