RFI Scans and Known Sources

by Davis Murphy last modified Feb 08, 2019 by Carla Beaudet

To enable observer planning for RFI avoidance, the Green Bank Observatory Radio Frequency Interference Protection Group (IPG) offers here an archive of RFI scans to give the observer an idea of spectral occupancy as seen by the GBT receivers. Observers are additionally encouraged to consult the SpectrumWIKI in planning their observations. Contact email: interference@nrao.edu.

GBT Receiver Plots by Band

Please select from the list of bands to view receiver plots. These will open in a new tab/window. In the event they do not open, please check your pop-up blocker settings.

Prime Focus 1 340MHz

Prime Focus 1 450 MHz

Prime Focus 1 600MHz

Prime Focus 1 800MHz

Prime Focus 2 1070MHz

L Band

S Band

C Band

X Band

Ku Band

K Band Focal Plane Array

Ka Band

Q Band

W Band

RFI scans are performed routinely by the operators during gaps between astronomical observations. The aim of the technique is to do the best job of monitoring narrow-band RFI coming from the horizon (which comes at the cost of monitoring changes in the RFI from satellites, nearby planes, etc.). The GBT, which can’t point below an elevation of 5 deg (typically many beamwidths), has very little sensitivity to horizon-based RFI in its forward direction. The sidelobes in the forward direction are also not uniform. The telescope is much more sensitive to radiation that comes from the horizon and that enters the sidelobes of the feeds. To make the sensitivity of the feed patterns uniform around the horizon we position the elevation of the antenna so that the flange of the feed is parallel to the horizon. The feed sidelobes also have uniform sensitivity as they cover a very large solid angle. Gregorian receivers require a different elevation than PF receivers to put the feeds into this orientation. However, the single telescope feed arm will introduce azimuthal diffraction patterns on top of the feed sidelobe patterns. To smooth out this azimuthal dependence, the telescope moves at near its top speed from Az=0 to 180 (or Az=180 to 0 if that’s a more efficient route). With this tactic, one can’t expect the monitoring of RFI that comes from the forward direction (satellites, etc.) to be anything more than hit and miss.

The data reduction uses the average of the raw bandpass data across the full slew and the average of the two polarizations (if the receiver has dual polarization). The raw bandpasses are put through a high-pass filter (with an upper frequency of 0.1 channels-1), which removes the overall bandpass shape. The use of a high-pass filter does the best job of depicting narrow-band RFI (our primary aim), but which comes at the cost of compromising the detection of wide-band RFI if it is significantly wider than about 10 channels.

Since the noise diode flickers throughout the observing, he bandpass power is converted into units of antenna temperatures using the ratio of the detected total power to the change in power when the diode is on. Since observers want to know the level at which the RFI would contaminate their observations, the signal strength observers would see is mimicked by converting Ta to Jy using the antenna’s main-beam gain.

The most recent GBT (raw, unfiltered) RFI data is stored as .fits files at:/home/gbtdata/TRFI_MMDDYY_RN where MM is month, DD is the day, YY is the last two digits of the year, R is the receiver letter designation (see below) and N is the session number for that particular day (1,2, 3 etc.) GBTIDL may be used to examine these plots dynamically and in more detail. The scripts used to process RFI plots for baseline removal, etc. and produce the RFI plots are:


To look at older (raw, unfiltered) data using GBTIDL, .fits files may be re-generated from the GBT data archives at /home/archive/test_data/tape_xxxx.

Band Names

Prime Focus 1 340 MHz R=3 Prime Focus 1 450 MHz R=4
Prime Focus 1 600 MHz R=6 Prime Focus 1 800 MHz R=8
Prime Focus 2 R=P L Band R=L
S Band R=S C Band R=C
X Band R=X Ku Band R=U
Ka Band R=A KFPA R=K
Q Band R=Q W band R=W