A New Digital Receiver For The Ooty Radio Telescope
A new digital receiver was built for the Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT). This new digital receiver system functionally replaces many systems custom-built for various applications at ORT. The thesis presents the receiver design, tests conducted, contributions made, revisions to the receiver architecture and future scopes. The novelty of the receiver design is in treating the ORT as an array of 22 antenna elements. Simulation studies were carried out to analyze the array performance of ORT. The IF signals are digitized and processed by a combination of multiple FPGAs and computers. Major transport of data in the receiver is through high speed serial communication. Programs were developed for configuration, control, data acquisition and off-line analysis. The functionality of the proposed digital receiver was verified through laboratory tests. The proposed receiver enables several new modes of operation of the ORT and field tests were carried out to verify these features of the system. These tests are briefly described below. The radio waves received on earth from celestial sources are extremely weak and their presence can only be detected by sensitive receivers associated with large radio telescopes. The resulting vulnerability of such observations to the ever increasing presence of radio frequency interference has prompted us to to develop new procedures to identify RFI at ORT through time and frequency domain analysis. The digital receiver has also been used in carrying out RFI study at ORT module level for the first time. Our study demonstrates that a major challenge to realizing the full potential of the ORT will be to detect weakly interfering RFI features and occasionally appearing RFI spikes and correct for their contamination in the observations. The examples provided by our analysis of data collected using the digital receiver are very useful for interpreting the data obtained during sensitive spectral line observations and has already enabled several new studies, the most notable being a sensitive recombination line survey conducted using our digital receiver at ORT as part of another research work. A spectral line emission detection procedure using our receiver has been evolved and an example result obtained by observing a region is presented in the thesis. Formation of phased array of ORT modules using the digitized IF signal is discussed and its implementation is verified through observation of celestial sources. An important requirement for proper phasing of the array is the calibration of differential delay/phase variations across the modules of the ORT, for which a powerful method was implemented based on the cross correlation of signals arriving at the 22 modules. This new method employs Hilbert Transform technique to introduce phase information in the sampled signal and the estimated delay and phase corrections are found to be consistent and repeatable. An interplanetary scintillation observation was made with the phased array and the resultant fluctuation spectra obtained are presented. Several pulsar observations and continuum sources have been observed and the results are presented. Another notable feature of the proposed digital receiver is the enhanced field of view which will lead to a reduced observing time observing extended regions. The improved spectral and temporal resolutions have also been demonstrated by the observations presented in the thesis. In particular, the single pulse observations of pulsars reported in the thesis were enabled by the high time resolution supported by the receiver.. The present work also demonstrated the digital beam formation with ORT modules in arbitrary directions. The digitally synthesized beam was compared within the first null positions of the central analog beam (beam-7) of ORT and the result is reported in the thesis. The new digital receiver enabled all the above mentioned analyses which were carried out for the first time at ORT. The results of the field trials emphasized the need for future observations to include RFI monitoring and characterization as part of the observing strategy and continuously evolve the algorithms for RFI mitigation by using different statistical signatures of the celestial signals. The need for providing a layer of buffering and preprocessing before the final beam formation or correlation is emphasized. To facilitate such development in the future, the final operational system provides for software based correlator which can be developed using the algorithms presented in this thesis. This transforms our original target of a reconfigurable platform to a much more flexible re-programmable platform. In particular, this simplifies the application of windowing functions and polyphase filters to control the beam shapes to (a) reduce beam dilution effects and, (b) to enhance RFI rejection by side lobe suppression. Such techniques can be used to reduce spectral leakage and reduce the effect of RFI on adjacent frequency channels in critical observations. Our receiver is adequate for realizing the maximum potential of the IF signals entering the receiver room. Any further enhancement of the ORT spectral coverage and instantaneous sky coverage will require telescope's front end modification and digitization of signals at the RF stage. The real time processing capabilities can be further enhanced by using multi-core processors and multi gigabit ethernet interfaces that are starting to appear as commodity hardware. Thus the present work opens up several new avenues for future work.