Frequency Bands & Performance

by VLBA SUS — last modified Jun 29, 2020 by Justin Linford

The nominal frequency ranges for VLBA receiver systems are shown in Table 5.1. Actual frequency ranges are broader; consult the measurements reported by Hronek & Walker (1996) for details. Updates on frequency-dependent performance across VLBA bands are available at http://www.vlba.nrao.edu/cgi-bin/wbd_dir.pl. These actual ranges may be especially important for avoiding radio frequency interference (RFI), and for programs involving extragalactic spectral lines, rotation measures (Cotton 1995b; Kemball 1999), and multi-frequency synthesis (Conway & Sault 1995; Sault & Conway 1999).

 

Table 5.1: Receiver Frequency Ranges & Performance
As of June 2020
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]
Receiver Nominal Typical Center Typical Baseline Image
Band Frequency Zenith Frequency Peak Sensitivity Sensitivity
Designation Range SEFD for SEFD Gain ΔS512,1m ΔIm4096,8h
(*) [GHz] [Jy] [GHz] [K Jy-1] [mJy] [μJy beam-1]
90 cm (a) 0.312 - 0.342 2742 0.326 0.077 111 (i) 266
50 cm (a,b) 0.596 - 0.626 2744 0.611 0.078 443 (j) 753
21 cm (c) 1.35 - 1.75 289 1.438 0.110 2.9 (k) 10
18 cm (c) 1.35 - 1.75 314 1.658 0.112 3.2 (k) 11
13 cm 2.2 - 2.4 347 2.269 0.087 3.5 (k) 12
13 cm (d) 2.2 - 2.4 359 2.269 0.085 3.6 (k) 12
6 cm (e) 3.9 - 7.9 210 4.993 0.119 2.1 5
7 ghz (e) 3.9 - 7.9 278 6.660 0.103 2.8 7
4 cm 8.0 - 8.8 327 8.419 0.118 3.3 8
4 cm (d) 8.0 - 8.8 439 8.419 0.105 4.4 11
2 cm 12.0 - 15.4 543 15.363 0.111 5.5 13
1 cm (f) 21.7 - 24.1 640 22.236 0.110 6.5 16
24 ghz (f) 21.7 - 24.1 534 23.801 0.118 5.4 13
7 mm 41.0 - 45.0 1181 43.124 0.090 12 29
3 mm (g) 80.0 - 90.0 4236 86.2 0.033 (h) 60 (l) 184
Notes:

(*) Receiver band designations are those recognized for SCHED's 'BAND' parameter and in the calibration files.

(a) Both bands processed in a single receiver. Signal from either or both available in same IFs.
(b) User-selectable filters available to restrict frequencies to 608.2-613.8 MHz.
(c) Different ranges within the 20-cm receiver.
(d) Using the 13/4-cm dichroic system.
(e) Different ranges within the 3.9-7.9 GHz receiver. Two LOs available, providing 4 IFs in dual polarization.
(f) Different ranges within the 1 cm receiver. Continuum performance better at 23.8 GHz, away from water line.
(g) See Table 5.2 below for individual station details.
(h) Integration interval 30 seconds.
(i) Data rate 256 Mbps.
(j) Data rate 32 Mbps.
(k) Data rate 2048 Mbps.
(l) 8-station array; 4-hour integration.

Also shown in Table 5.1 are parameters characterizing the performance of a typical VLBA station for the various frequency bands. Columns [3] and [5] give typical VLBA system-equivalent-flux-density (SEFD) values at zenith and opacity-corrected peak gains, respectively. These are means over measurements in both polarization at all ten antennas, at the frequencies in column [4].

The typical zenith SEFD can be combined with the aggregate recorded data rate and appropriate integration times to estimate the root-mean-square (RMS) noise level on a single VLBA baseline, and in a VLBA image. The characteristic baseline sensitivity values tabulated in column [6] are computed for a single data channel assuming, for most cases, the VLBA's upgraded 4-Gbps recording rate (128 MHz of bandwidth, or a data rate of 512 Mbps, per data channel) for continuum observations and a typical integration interval of 1 minute. The characteristic image sensitivity values tabulated in column [7] are computed assuming, for most cases, the 4-Gbps recording rate for continuum observations and a total on-source integration time of 8 hours. Exceptions, indicated in the table notes, apply to the integration intervals at the highest frequency band (3-mm), where shorter intervals are often required; for the recording rate limits imposed by the available RF bandwidth at the lowest frequency bands; and for most parameters at the extreme 3-mm band. Performance may be worse than the tabulated estimates on some baselines due to poor primary or subreflector surfaces or poor atmospheric conditions.

 

Table 5.2: Performance Parameters at 86.2 GHz
Antenna Nominal Typical Typical Typical Baseline
Frequency Zenith Peak Zenith Sensitivity
Range SEFD Gain Tsys ΔS512,30s
[GHz] [Jy] [K Jy-1] [K] [mJy]
BR 80 - 90 3500 0.039 135 47.
NL 80 - 96 4900 0.055 270 56.
FD 80 - 96 3600 0.034 120 48.
LA 80 - 90 3100 0.051 160
PT 80 - 96 4100 0.024 100 51.
KP 80 - 96 4600 0.025 110 54.
OV 80 - 96 5800 0.020 100 60.
MK 80 - 96 4100 0.023 100 51.

 

The 3 mm band extends beyond the design specification for the VLBA antenna, and is challenging for the panel-setting accuracy of the primary reflectors, the figure of the subreflectors, and the pointing of the antennas. In addition, performance in this band is highly dependent on weather conditions. Table 5.2 gives a snapshot of performance at 86 GHz for each antenna, as well as the RMS noise in 30 seconds (at 512 Mbps, or 128 MHz bandwidth) on a baseline to LA, which is one of the most sensitive antennas with a 3 mm receiver.