Development of a two element correlating radio telescope interferometer
Callaghan, David James
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A two element correlating radio telescope interferometer is the fundamental building block of modern radio telescope aperture synthesis arrays. Early radio telescopes consisted of a single antenna, usually a dish antenna. Larger and larger antennas were constructed in order to improve the resolution of the measurement of the direction and extent of radio frequency radiation coming from the sky. Telescope resolution is fundamentally limited by the ratio of the telescope aperture to the wavelength of the received radiation. For single element radio telescopes to approach the resolution of their optical telescope counterparts, they would need to be impractically large. Mathematical analysis of correlating two element radio telescope interferometers shows that very large aperture radio telescopes can be synthesized from a number of two element interferometers. An array of two element correlating radio telescope interferometers can be used to produce a synthesized aperture equal to the largest distance between two receiving antennas in the array. Telescope arrays thus enable very high resolution since the angular resolution of a telescope is proportional to the wavelength of the received signal divided by the aperture diameter. A spread of separation distances between antenna pairs is required to produce a complete image of the radiating sources in the field of view. Modern digital signal processing techniques can be used to provide cost effective performance and flexibility in two element correlating radio telescope interferometer design. The aim of this research project was to design and construct a two element correlating radio telescope interferometer using modern digital signal processing techniques and hardware. The relevant theory has been investigated together with suitable hardware and software platforms and tools used to produce such a system. The two element correlating radio telescope interferometer produced, will be used as a platform for further investigative research into its design, performance and application. The outcome of this research project was the successful completion of a working two element correlating radio telescope interferometer. The development process has been analysed and carefully documented. Some fringe measurements for a simple single frequency radiating point source have been taken and these measurements have been analysed according to theoretical expectation. Potential for further research, using the two element correlating radio telescope interferometer produced, has been identified and discussed.