VLA Frequency Bands and Tunability

by Stephan W. Witz last modified Apr 29, 2013 by Stephan Witz


For observations taken with the 8-bit samplers under the general observing program,  each receiver can tune to two different frequencies, each 1.024 GHz wide,  within the same frequency band. Right-hand circular (RCP) and left-hand circular (LCP) polarizations are received for both frequencies, except for the low-band receiver (50 -- 500 MHz), which provides linear polarization.  Each of these four data streams follows the VLA nomenclature, and are known as IF (for "Intermediate Frequency" channel) "A", "B", "C", and "D". IFs A and B provide RCP, IFs C and D provide LCP.  IFs A and C are always at the same frequency, as are IFs B and D (but note that the A and C IFs  frequency is usually different from the B and D frequency). We normally refer to these two independent data streams as "IF pairs" -- i.e., the 'A/C' pair and the 'B/D' pair.   Currently, a maximum of 1.024 GHz can be correlated for each IF pair (see Correlator Configurations), for a total maximum bandwidth of  2.048 GHz.  To distinguish this 8-bit system from the 3-bit system (described below), these IF pairs are denoted A0/C0 and B0/D0.

The tuning ranges, along with default frequencies for continuum applications, are given in Table 7 below.

1.  Listed here are the nominal band edges.  For all bands, the receivers can be tuned to frequencies outside this range, but at the cost of diminished performance.  Contact VLA staff for further information.
2.  The default setup for P-band will provide two subbands from the A0D0 IF pair, each 128 MHz wide, spanning 236 -- 364 MHz, and 364 -- 492 MHz.  The channel resolution is 125 kHz.   The B0D0 pair will be used for the 4-band tuning. 
3. The default frequency set-up for L-band comprises two 512 MHz IF pairs (each comprising 8 contiguous subbands of 64 MHz) to cover the entire 1-2 GHz of the L-band receiver.

In general, for all frequency bands except Ka, if the total span of the two independent IFs (defined as the frequency difference between the lower edge of one IF pair and the upper edge of the other) is less than 8.0 GHz, there are no restrictions on the frequency placements of the two IF pairs. For K, Ka and Q bands (the only bands where a span greater than 8 GHz is possible), there are special rules:

  • At Ka band, the low frequency edge of the AC IF must be greater than 32.0 GHz. There is no restriction on the BD frequency, unless the BD band overlaps the AC band when the latter is tuned at or near the 32.0 GHz limit.  In this case, the Observation Preparation Tool (OPT) may not allow the requested frequency setups.  Users wanting to use such a frequency setup are encouraged to contact the NRAO Helpdesk for possible tuning options.
  • At K and Q bands, if the frequency span is greater than 8.0 GHz, the BD frequency must be lower than the AC frequency.

With the 3-bit samplers, more options are available.  This system provides four (R,L) polarization pairs, each 2048 MHz wide.  The A/C IF pair provides two sampled pairs, labelled A1C1 and A2C2, and the B/D IF pair provides two sampled pairs, labelled B1D1 and B2D2.  The maximum frequency span permitted for the A1C1 and A2C2 pairs is about 5000 MHz.  The same restriction applies to B1D1 and B2D2.   The tuning restrictions given above for the separation and location of the 8-bit pairs A0C0 and B0D0 also apply to the 3-bit pairs.