Radio Frequency Interference

by Stephan W. Witz last modified Mar 15, 2017 by Heidi Medlin

The very wide bandwidths of the VLA mean that radio frequency interference (RFI) will be present in a far larger fraction of current observations than in observations made with the old systems. Considerable effort has gone into making the VLA's electronics as linear as possible, so that the effects of any RFI will remain limited to the actual frequencies at which the RFI exists. Non-linear effects, such as receiver saturation, should occur only for those very unlikely, and usually very brief, times when the emitter is within the antenna primary beam.

RFI is primarily a problem within the low frequency (C, S, L, and the low-band system) bands, and is most serious in the D configuration. With increasing frequency and increasing resolution comes an increasing fringe rate, which is often very effective in reducing interference to tolerable levels.

The bands within the tuning range of the VLA which are allocated exclusively to radio astronomy are: 1400–1427 MHz, 1660–1670 MHz, 2690–2700 MHz, 4990–5000 MHz, 10.68–10.7 GHz, 15.35–15.4 GHz, 22.21–22.5 GHz, 23.6–24.0 GHz, 31.3–31.8 GHz, and 42.5–43.5 GHz. No external interference should occur within these bands.

VLA staff periodically observes the entire radio spectrum with the VLA, from 1.0 through 50.0 GHz with 125 kHz channel resolution, to monitor the ever-changing RFI spectrum. Users concerned about the precise frequencies of strong RFI, and the likelihood of being affected, are encouraged to peruse these plots. To access these plots, or for more information on RFI, including the impact of satellite transmissions, please see the RFI section in the Guide to Observing with the VLA.