Maximizing the Science
The GBT development program is not limited to new instrumentation and software to meet individual scientific goals. NRAO staff also work with the community to ensure the GBT performance and infrastructure is sufficient to meet future scientific demands. This work ranges across improved data transmission lines, optimized signal processing equipment, improved telescope scheduling, optimized software for observations and data reduction, and telescope improvements to ensure the highest scientific gain.
- Improved Telescope Efficiency: The GBT servo system is being replaced with a digital system in 2011-2012. The new system wiill allow for improved motions of the GBT, increasing the telescope pointing and observing efficiencies at high frequencies while providing significantly improved baselines and sensitivities for projects in all frequency ranges. Continued upgrades to the surface modeling and better understanding of the weather effects on telescope performance will increase the number of good weather hours available for high frequency observing from the roughly 2,000 scheduled high frequency (>18 GHz) hours in 2010 to 3,00 hours or more.
- Digital Signal Transmission and Processing: The signal processing and data transmission of the GBT is also being improved to provide higher sensitivity, increased bandwidth, and improved flexibility for all GBT science. The Configurable Instrument Collection for Agile Data Acquisition program (CICADA) is an NRAO collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley, Xilinx Inc, and many university groups around the world. The CICADA program is developing digital signal processing and data transmission systems using reconfigurable off-the-shelf hardware platforms and software tools that allow rapid design, verification, and deployment of astronomical signal processing systems. The program is based on hardware and tools developed by U.C. Berkeley's CASPER group. The CICADA collaborators are working with the CASPER hardware and software to research, define, and implement astronomical signal processing systems that have numerous applications. This work will allow development of detectors that can encompass the entire band of a radio camera at high frequency resolution, improving the throughput of the GBT by an order of magnitude. A new data transmission system will also improve instrumental stability and reduce instrumental effects for the most sensitive observations.
- Data visualization and reduction pipelines: A data reduction pipeline for GBT spectral line data is currently under development within the NRAO staff, as is a fully searchable archive of past GBT data. In addition, the Green Bank software division is investigating a paradigm shift for the visualization of data during observations which would allow for the data to be viewed in real time. Finally, within this category, NRAO is working with University and other research groups around the world to develop and test new concepts in data intensive computing. These initiatives are all still in their planning stages, and include working with the HDF community to explore and develop new high density data files formats and working university and national laboratories to test new visualization software developed for large datasets. By the end of this period it is anticipated the GBT will readily be able to store, visualize, and analyzed datasets of 50-100 TB in size.
- VEGAS: The Versatile GBT Astronomical Spectrometer
- Servo Improvements
- GBT Pipeline: GBT Data reduction Pipeline