• Cycle 8 NRAO ALMA Development Study Proposal – Regularized Maximum Likelihood Techniques for ALMA Spectral Line Imaging
    • Ian Czekala, PSU
Regularized Maximum Likelihood (RML) imaging techniques have been demonstrated to achieve higher angular resolution with sub-mm observations of continuum sources while maintaining superior image fidelity, for example with the recent Event Horizon Telescope images of M87. There is great promise in applying RML imaging techniques to ALMA spectral line measurement sets, since the probabilistic framework can naturally treat diverse array configurations while regularizing away artefacts originating from incomplete u-v sampling. However, it remains to be seen whether prior formulations, like entropy and sparsity, that have worked well in other domains will be successful for the varied morphologies of spectral line emission. We propose to develop and implement RML algorithms for ALMA spectral line imaging, focusing on achieving high image fidelity when utilizing multi-configuration aggregate datasets. As the ALMA archive continues to mature, techniques that can accurately image large and diverse quantities of data will drive science forward in key areas that require sensitivity and angular resolution, such as the kinematic detection of planets in protoplanetary disks and astrochemical domains. We will use our GPU-accelerated open source code MPoL to implement and rigorously test promising new prior choices like Gaussian process velocity-space regularization, and power spectrum regularization. Best-practices learned throughout this study will be disseminated to the community through publications in leading astronomical journals and open source software.

  • Cycle 8 NRAO ALMA Development Study Proposal – ALMA Band 6v2 SIS Mixer-Preamp Development
    • A.Kerr, NRAO
    • Abstract
This proposal will continue the development of the components for a future ALMA Band 6 receiver upgrade – referred to here as Band 6v2. The goals are: (i) to increase the IF bandwidth from the present 4 GHz per sideband per polarization to 12 GHz (4-16 GHz) or 16 GHz (4-20 GHz); (ii) to reduce and flatten the noise temperature across the full IF band; and (iii) to expand the usable RF band from the current 211-275 GHz to 211-280 GHz. While the current ALMA correlator and IF transmission system can only accommodate 4 GHz per sideband per polarization, the new receiver will take advantage of future upgrades enabling increased bandwidth. A number of options are being explored, and a best design will eventually be chosen for the upgrade. The options include the use of SIS junctions with aluminum nitride tunnel barriers (Nb/Al-AlN/Nb) instead of the usual aluminum oxide barrier (Nb/Al-AlOx/Nb) to give increased RF bandwidth; balanced sideband-separating (2SB) mixers instead of the current single-ended 2SB mixers, to reduce LO sideband noise; the use of ferrite isolators or balanced IF amplifiers to flatten the receiver characteristics across the full IF band. It had been planned to use the very-wide-band low-noise cryogenic IF amplifiers made by Low Noise Factory for the B6v2 receivers. However, significant gain variation observed in LNF amplifiers makes them unsuitable for use as IF amplifiers. LNF has been aware of this problem for some time but has so far been unable to find a remedy. Recently, the NRAO CDL has had success using transistors made by Diramics in experimental IF amplifiers for the current Band-6 SIS mixers. It is believed that these devices could be used to make IF amplifiers for 4-16 GHz and probably 4-20 GHz, and it may be possible to make balanced IF amplifiers using the same devices. Continuing this work on IF amplifiers is critical to the success of the B6v2 receiver upgrade, and a study proposal to fund that work is being submitted in parallel with this one. Under a current ALMA study proposal an improved Band-6 LO source with low sideband noise is being developed. Success in that would remove the need for balanced SIS mixers, thereby simplifying the project significantly, and reducing the cost of producing the ~140 mixer-preamps. Because the physical constraints of the ALMA cartridge restrict the configuration of the mixer-preamplifiers, magnets, and orthomode transducer (OMT), all of which must be located near the output of the feed horn but must not protrude into the optical path which traverses the 4-K section of the cartridge, it is important that these components be developed in close collaboration with the optics design team. The essential work on the SIS mixers, the superconducting IF hybrids and components on silicon membranes will be done in close collaboration with the University of Virginia Microfabrication Laboratory (UVML) through separate funding.

  • Cycle 8 NRAO ALMA Development Study Proposal – Beyond Black Hole Images: Extending New Imaging Techniques from EHT to ALMA
    • Lynn Matthews, MIT
The scientific demands of high angular resolution, high-fidelity imaging at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths are a fundamental driver for future ALMA development. The current ALMA development plan aims to achieve an additional factor of 2 to 3 improvement in angular resolution, demanding either observing at high frequencies with the current longest baselines or at intermediate frequencies with 2 to 3 times longer baselines. However, both options are technically challenging for high fidelity imaging, due to larger calibration errors and/or much less uniform uv-coverage on the longest baselines. A key technical frontier is therefore the development of robust, high-fidelity imaging algorithms which can deal with larger calibration uncertainties and effectively use the planned outrigger stations for enhancing the angular resolution of ALMA images. In the last decade, the technical challenges of imaging with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) have accelerated the development of new imaging techniques, collectively known as regularized maximum likelihood (RML) methods. RML methods have strong potential to overcome and improve current and future challenges of ALMA imaging in three ways: (1) allowing highfidelity reconstructions, even at modest super resolution 2-3 times finer than that of traditional CLEAN; (2) the capability to reconstruct images directly from closure quantities, free from antenna-based calibration errors; and (3) the ability to handle intrinsically multi-dimensional emission, such as time-variable emission structures. The aforementioned advantages of RML methods over CLEAN have now been demonstrated not only for very long baseline interferometry, but also for single-band ALMA continuum observations. However, since the current RML packages were designed for performing single-band continuum observations with only a few antennas, the general application of RML methods to ALMA observations will require further developments of both software packages and imaging algorithms. This ALMA Study project aims to improve the effective spatial resolution and image fidelity of the current ALMA array and its planned extended array, by extending of RML methods from the EHT to ALMA. In the Study, we aim to develop the RML imaging algorithms to make them more general, flexible, and powerful, including: (a) the extension of imageable dimensions, enabling multi-band or multi-spectral channel imaging, and (b) developments of gridding-based RML imaging techniques involving minor and major cycles to accelerate the algorithm. Algorithms developed in the Study will be implemented in SMILI, one of the RML packages which is publicly available, open-source and python-interfaced. We will also implement IO functions for CASA Measurement Sets into SMILI, so that it can work as an external library of CASA. We will provide documentation, including an online manual and tutorials with example imaging scripts for ALMA, allowing the broader radio astronomy community to utilize RML imaging techniques for various interferometric data sets.

  • Cycle 8 NRAO ALMA Development Study Proposal – Extending IF Bandwidth of Band #6 SIS Mixer-Preamps to 12 GHz and 16 GHz with Optimal Noise Performance: An Experimental Demonstration
    • Marian Pospieszalski, NRAO
    • Abstract
This proposal has two main developmental goals: 1) Development of new designs of broadband IF amplifiers using commercially available devices from Diramics, Inc. that are integrable with the existing and future designs of Band# 6 SIS mixers. That should include 4-16 GHz and 4-20 GHz versions. The state-of-the-art cryogenic low noise performance of Diramic’s devices has already been demonstrated in existing 5-10 GHz IF amplifiers as well as in in 35-52 GHz Band #1 amplifiers. The noise performance of Diramics devices equals on the average the best ever demonstrated in any technology. 2) Demonstration of direct integration with optimal noise performance of these IF amplifiers with the existing Band #6 SIS mixers. This should allow for extending instantaneous bandwidth of an individual mixer to 24 GHz or 32 GHz per polarization. Extending the instantaneous IF bandwidth of the existing Band #6 receiver from 5-10 GHz to 4-12 GHz has already been experimentally demonstrated. Extending the highest frequency within the IF bandwidth always has to result in some penalty in IF bandwidth averaged noise temperature of an SIS receiver. An experimental comparison of Band #6 mixer optimally integrated with IF amplifiers having 8, 12 and 16 GHz instantaneous bandwidth should settle the question whether extending the IF bandwidth at the cost of receiver noise is scientifically justifiable. It therefore should help guide any future SIS mixer development for ALMA.

  • Cycle 8 NRAO ALMA Development Study Proposal – Investigating the future potential of an upgraded ALMA to image planet-forming disks at sub-au scales
    • Luca Ricci, Cal State Northridge
    • Abstract
The discovery of substructures in proto-planetary disks is arguably one of the most striking achievements of ALMA so far. In particular, high-angular resolution observations of nearby young disks have established that their sub-millimeter continuum emission shows rings, gaps, spirals and other asymmetric structures on spatial scales down to the resolution limit of the observations, i.e. > 5 astronomical units. These recent ALMA observations have spawned variety of different theoretical investigations in the field of planet formation and interaction with the parental disk that are changing our understanding of how planets come to be.

Whereas similar ALMA observations using the current 16 km longest baselines over the next few years will certainly find more of these structures at separations > 2 – 3 au from the central star, longer baselines by factors of ~ 2 are necessary to resolve the Earth forming zone (~ 1 au) in the dust continuum of nearby disks (~ 150 pc) at wavelengths shorter than 1mm.

The main purpose of this Study is to quantify the potential of an upgraded ALMA, with improved angular resolution and continuum sensitivity, to detect the substructures expected in planet-forming disks with sub-au resolution at wavelengths shorter than 1mm, and with ~ 1 au resolution at wavelengths longer than 1mm. Our results can be used as examples in the upcoming ALMA Integrated Science Team report on the “Extended Baselines for ALMA Science Case”.

The proposed study could have high impact also on the scientific community of planet formation and exoplanets, as it would quantify the potential of a future upgraded ALMA to open the door to the observational characterization of Earth-like planets in the act of forming, including their interaction with the natal disk.

-- AlWootten - 2020-08-20
Topic revision: r2 - 2020-12-04, AlWootten
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