Spacecraft carrying optical communication lasers can be treated as artificial stars, whose relative astrometry to Gaia reference stars provides spacecraft positions in the plane-of-sky for optical navigation. To be comparable to current Deep Space Network delta-Differential One-way Ranging measurements, thus sufficient for navigation, nanoradian optical astrometry is required. Here we describe our error budget, techniques for achieving nanoradian level ground-base astrometry, and preliminary results from a 1 m telescope. We discuss also how these spacecraft may serve as artificial reference stars for adaptive optics, high precision astrometry to detect exoplanets, and tying reference frames defined by radio and optical measurements.
The Virtual Observatory (VO) is realizing global electronic integration of astronomy data. One of the long-term goals of
the U.S. VO project, the Virtual Astronomical Observatory (VAO), is development of services and protocols that
respond to the growing size and complexity of astronomy data sets. This paper describes how VAO staff are active in
such development efforts, especially in innovative strategies and techniques that recognize the limited operating budgets
likely available to astronomers even as demand increases. The project has a program of professional outreach whereby
new services and protocols are evaluated.
The U.S. Virtual Astronomical Observatory (VAO http://www.us-vao.org/) has been in operation since May 2010. Its goal is to enable new science through efficient integration of distributed multi-wavelength data. This paper describes the management and organization of the VAO, and emphasizes the techniques used to ensure efficiency in a distributed organization. Management methods include using an annual program plan as the basis for establishing contracts with member organizations, regular communication, and monitoring of processes.
Millimeter wave detection and imaging is becoming increasingly important with the proliferation of hostile,
mobile millimeter wave threats from both weapons systems and communication links. Improved force protection,
surveillance, and targeting will rely increasingly on the interception, detection, geo-sorting, and the identification of
sources, such as point-to point communication systems, missile seekers, precision guided munitions, and fire control
This paper describes the Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL) demonstration broadband passive millimeter wave
(mmW) interferometric imaging system. This Ka-band system will provide a capability for meter-precision geolocation
for imaged objects. The interferometer uses a distributed array of 12 antenna elements to synthesize a large aperture.
Each antenna is packaged into an individual receiver, from which a baseband signal is recorded. The correlator is
software-based, utilizing signal processing techniques for visibilities, and image formation via beamforming methods.
This paper presents first results from an interferometer flight campaign.
The Square Kilometre Array is intended to be the next-generation radio wavelength observatory. With a Key Science
program addressing fundamental physics, astronomy, and astrobiology, the SKA will have a collecting area of up to one
million square metres spread over at least 3000 km, providing a sensitivity 50 times higher than the Expanded Very
Large Array, and an instantaneous field of view (FoV) of at least several tens of square degrees and possibly 250 square
degrees. In this paper, we describe the main features of the SKA, paying attention to the design activities around the
world, and outline plans for the final design and phased implementation of the telescope.
The SKA will have a collecting area of up to one million square metres spread over at least 3000 km, providing a
sensitivity 50 times higher than the Expanded Very Large Array, and an instantaneous field of view (FoV) of at least
several tens of square degrees and possibly 250 square degrees. The SKA science impact will be widely felt in astroparticle
physics and cosmology, fundamental physics, galactic and extragalactic astronomy, solar system science and
astrobiology. In this paper, we describe the main features of the SKA, paying attention to the design activities around the
world, and outline plans for the final design and phased implementation of the telescope.
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is the future centimeter- and meter-wavelength telescope with a sensitivity about 50 times higher than present instruments. Its Key Science Projects are (a) Astrobiology including planetary formation within protoplanetary disks; (b) Testing theories of gravitation using an array of pulsars to search for gravitational waves and relativistic binaries to probe the strong-field regime; (c) The origin and evolution of cosmic magnetism, both within the Galaxy and in intergalactic space, via an all-sky grid of magnetic field measurements; (d) The end of the Dark Ages, involving searches for a neutral hydrogen signature, the first supermassive black holes, and the first metal-rich systems; and (e) A hydrogen census to a redshift z greater than or equal to 1 from which to study the evolution of galaxies, dark matter, and dark energy. The SKA will operate at wavelengths from 1.2 cm to 3 m (0.1-25 GHz), providing milliarcsecond resolution at the shortest wavelengths. Its instantaneous field of view will be about 1° (20 cm wavelength), with many simultaneous beams on the sky. The Reference Design is composed of a large number of small dish antennas, building upon an original US proposal. In order to obtain these capabilities at a reasonable cost, significant engineering investments are being made in antennas, wideband feeds and receivers, and signal processing; aperture arrays (phased feeds) are also being investigated in Europe for the lower frequencies. Candidate sites are in Argentina, Australia, China, and South Africa, with a short list of acceptable sites anticipated late in 2006.
Ionospheric phase errors degrade high-resolution radio images below
100 MHz, and they differ significantly from the tropospheric errors
which dominate at high frequencies. The ionosphere is so high
(~400 km) and the VLA primary beam is so wide (~0.2 rad) that
the intersection of the beam with the ionospheric screen is larger
than the "isoplanatic patch" size, a phase coherent region on the
sky. Antenna-based calibration techniques developed at higher
frequencies cannot be used because ionospheric phase errors vary
significantly across the field-of-view of each antenna. This paper
describes the "field-based calibration" technique adopted for the
74 MHz VLA Low--frequency Sky Survey (VLSS) being made with the 10 km
"B" configuration. This technique is useful for a range of array
sizes but fails on baselines longer than the linear size of the
isoplanatic patch, a few 10s of km at 74 MHz. Implications for
designing larger low-frequency arrays are discussed.
The 74 MHz system on the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very
Large Array (VLA) has opened a high-resolution, high-sensitivity
window on the electromagnetic spectrum at low frequencies. It
provides us with a unique glimpse into both the possibilities and
challenges of planned low-frequency radio interferometers such as
LOFAR, the LWA, and the SKA. Observations of bright, resolved radio
sources at 74 MHz provide new scientific insights into the structure,
history, and energy balances of these systems. However many of these
scientifically motivated observations will also be critical to testing
the scientific fidelity of new instruments, by providing a set of
well-known standard sources. We are also using the 74 MHz system to
conduct a sky survey, called the VLA Low-frequency Sky Survey (VLSS).
When complete it will cover the entire sky above -30 degrees
declination, at a 5σ sensitivity of 0.5 Jy/bm<sup>-1</sup>, and a resolution of 80" (B-configuration). Among its various uses, this
survey will provide an initial grid of calibrator sources at low
frequency. Finally, practical experience with calibration and data
reduction at 74 MHz has helped to direct and shape our understanding
of the design needs of future instruments. In particular, we have
begun experimenting with angle-variant calibration techniques which
are essential to properly calibrate the wide field of view at low
The first, serendipitous, radio-astronomical observations by K. Jansky were at decametric wavelengths. However, after the initial pioneering work, long-wavelength radio astronomy was largely abandoned in the quest for higher angular resolution because ionospheric structure was thought to limit interferometric imaging to short (< 5 km) baselines. The long-wavelength (LW, 2 - 20 m or 15 - 150 MHz) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum thus remains poorly explored. The NRL-NRAO 74 MHz observing system on the Very Large Array has demonstrated that self-calibration techniques can remove ionospheric distortions over arbitrarily long baselines. We describe the scientific justification and initial technical design of the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) -- a fully electronic, broad-band antenna array operating in the 15 - 150 MHz range with a collecting area of 1 km<SUP>2</SUP> at 15 MHz. The longest baselines may be 500 km, providing an angular resolution of 10' at 15 MHz and 1' at 150 MHz. The combination of large collecting area and high angular resolution will enable LOFAR to produce images with sensitivities of order 1 mJy at 15 MHz and 300 (mu) Jy at 150 MHz. As such LOFAR will represent an improvement of 2 - 3 orders of magnitude in resolution and sensitivity over the state of the art. A key operational goal of LOFAR will be solar observations -- both passive imaging and radar imaging. In the latter mode LOFAR will serve as the receiver for bi-static observations of the Sun, with particular emphasis on the imaging of coronal mass ejections. LOFAR will serve as an astrophysical laboratory to study the origin, spectrum, and distribution of the Galactic cosmic ray electron gas and as an instrument to probe the high-redshift Universe.