The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is the world's largest millimeter/submillimeter telescope and provides unprecedented sensitivities and spatial resolutions. To achieve the highest imaging capabilities, interferometric phase calibration for the long baselines is one of the most important subjects: The longer the baselines, the worse the phase stability becomes because of turbulent motions of the Earth's atmosphere, especially, the water vapor in the troposphere. To overcome this subject, ALMA adopts a phase correction scheme using a Water Vapor Radiometer (WVR) to estimate the amount of water vapor content along the antenna line of sight. An additional technique is phase referencing, in which a science target and a nearby calibrator are observed by turn by quickly changing the antenna pointing. We conducted feasibility studies of the hybrid technique with the WVR phase correction and the antenna Fast Switching (FS) phase referencing (WVR+FS phase correction) for the ALMA 16 km longest baselines in cases that (1) the same observing frequency both for a target and calibrator is used, and (2) higher and lower frequencies for a target and calibrator, respectively, with a typical switching cycle time of 20 s. It was found that the phase correction performance of the hybrid technique is promising where a nearby calibrator is located within roughly 3◦ from a science target, and that the phase correction with 20 s switching cycle time significantly improves the performance with the above separation angle criterion comparing to the 120 s switching cycle time. The currently trial phase calibration method shows the same performance independent of the observing frequencies. This result is especially important for the higher frequency observations because it becomes difficult to find a bright calibrator close to an arbitrary sky position. In the series of our experiments, it is also found that phase errors affecting the image quality come from not only the water vapor content in the lower troposphere but also a large structure of the atmosphere with a typical cell scale of a few tens of kilometers.
Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is the world’s largest millimeter/ submillimeter (mm / Submm) interferometer. Along with science observations, ALMA has performed several long baseline campaigns in the last 6 years to characterize and optimize its long baseline capabilities. To achieve full long baseline capability of ALMA, it is important to understand the characteristics of atmospheric phase fluctuation at long baselines, since it is believed to be the main cause of mm/submm image degradation. For the first time, we present detailed properties of atmospheric phase fluctuation at mm/submm wavelength from baselines up to 15 km in length. Atmospheric phase fluctuation increases as a function of baseline length with a power-law slope close to 0.6, and many of the data display a shallower slope (02.-03) at baseline length greater than about 15 km. Some of the data, on the other hand, show a single slope up to the maximum baseline length of around 15 km. The phase correction method based on water vapor radiometers (WVRs) works well, especially for cases with precipitable water vapor (PWV) greater than 1 mm, typically yielding a 50% decrease or more in the degree of phase fluctuation. However, signicant amount of atmospheric phase fluctuation still remains after the WVR phase correction: about 200 micron in rms excess path length (rms phase fluctuation in unit of length) even at PWV less than 1 mm. This result suggests the existence of other non-water-vapor sources of phase fluctuation. and emphasizes the need for additional phase correction methods, such as band-to-band and/or fast switching.
We present the temporal phase stability of the entire ALMA system. We first verified the temporal phase stability: We observed a strong quasar for a long time (a few tens of minutes), derived the temporal structure function after the atmospheric phase correction using the water vapor radiometers (WVRs), and confirmed that the phase stability of all the baselines reached the ALMA specification. We then verified frequency transfer between bands: We observed a bright quasar and switched between the two frequency bands, and confirmed that the phase returned to the original values within the phase fluctuation. In addition to these results, we also studied the effectiveness of the WVR phase correction at various frequencies, baseline lengths, and weather conditions.
In Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) commissioning and science verification we have
conducted a series of experiments of a novel phase calibration scheme for Atacama Compact Array (ACA). In
this scheme water vapor radiometers (WVRs) devoted to measurements of tropospheric water vapor content
are attached to ACA’s four total-power array (TP Array) antennas surrounding the 7 m dish interferometer
array (7 m Array). The excess path length (EPL) due to the water vapor variations aloft is fitted to a simple
two-dimensional slope using WVR measurements. Interferometric phase fluctuations for each baseline of the
7 m Array are obtained from differences of EPL inferred from the two-dimensional slope and subtracted from
the interferometric phases. In the experiments we used nine ALMA 12-m antennas. Eight of them were closely
located in a 70-m square region, forming a compact array like ACA. We supposed the most four outsiders to be
the TP Array while the inner 4 antennas were supposed to be the 7 m Array, so that this phase correction scheme
(planar-fit) was tested and compared with the WVR phase correction. We estimated residual root-mean-square
(RMS) phases for 17- to 41-m baselines after the planar-fit phase correction, and found that this scheme reduces
the RMS phase to a 70 – 90 % level. The planar-fit phase correction was proved to be promising for ACA, and
how high or low PWV this scheme effectively works in ACA is an important item to be clarified.