Timing calibration and spectral cleaning of LOFAR time series data

A. Corstanje, S. Buitink, J. E. Enriquez, H. Falcke, J. R. Hörandel, M. Krause, A. Nelles, J. P. Rachen, P. Schellart, O. Scholten, S. Ter Veen, S. Thoudam, T. N.G. Trinh

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8 Scopus citations


We describe a method for spectral cleaning and timing calibration of short time series data of the voltage in individual radio interferometer receivers. It makes use of phase differences in fast Fourier transform (FFT) spectra across antenna pairs. For strong, localized terrestrial sources these are stable over time, while being approximately uniform-random for a sum over many sources or for noise. Using only milliseconds-long datasets, the method finds the strongest interfering transmitters, a first-order solution for relative timing calibrations, and faulty data channels. No knowledge of gain response or quiescent noise levels of the receivers is required. With relatively small data volumes, this approach is suitable for use in an online system monitoring setup for interferometric arrays. We have applied the method to our cosmic-ray data collection, a collection of measurements of short pulses from extensive air showers, recorded by the LOFAR radio telescope. Per air shower, we have collected 2 ms of raw time series data for each receiver. The spectral cleaning has a calculated optimal sensitivity corresponding to a power signal-to-noise ratio of 0.08 (or-11 dB) in a spectral window of 25 kHz, for 2 ms of data in 48 antennas. This is well sufficient for our application. Timing calibration across individual antenna pairs has been performed at 0.4 ns precision; for calibration of signal clocks across stations of 48 antennas the precision is 0.1 ns. Monitoring differences in timing calibration per antenna pair over the course of the period 2011 to 2015 shows a precision of 0.08 ns, which is useful for monitoring and correcting drifts in signal path synchronizations. A cross-check method for timing calibration is presented, using a pulse transmitter carried by a drone flying over the array. Timing precision is similar, 0.3 ns, but is limited by transmitter position measurements, while requiring dedicated flights.

Original languageBritish English
Article numberA41
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Instrumentation: interferometers
  • Site testing
  • Techniques: interferometric


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