The Pulse Cal System

Fringe phases should be coherent across the entire set of channels produced by each RDBE. Correction of phase offsets between the two RDBEs at each station, and/or between the oppositely polarized signal channels, can be determined using the "phase cal" or "pulse cal" system (Thompson 1995). In conjunction with the LO cable length measuring system, this system can also be used to measure changes in the delays through the cables and electronics which must be removed for accurate geodetic and astrometric observations.

The phase cal system consists of a pulse generator and a sine-wave detector. The interval between the pulses can be either 0.2 or 1 microsecond. They are injected into the signal path at the receivers and serve to define the delay reference point for astrometry. The pulses appear in the spectrum as a "comb'' of very narrow, weak spectral lines at integral multiples of 1 or 5 MHz. The phases of one or more of these lines are measured by the detector, logged as a function of time, and delivered in a PC table.

AIPS tasks can load and apply the PC data. However, some VLBA observers may still want to use a strong compact source to do a "manual'' phase cal if necessary (Diamond 1995). Spectral line users will not want the pulse cal comb to appear in their observations, and should ensure that their observing schedules both disable the pulse cal generators and include observations suitable for a manual phase cal. Manual phase calibration also is likely to be necessary for non-VLBA stations that have no tone generators or detectors, and in VLBA observations at 3 mm, where the VLBA receivers have no pulse calibration tones.