Performance of a continuously rotating half-wave plate on the POLARBEAR telescope [IMA]

A continuously rotating half-wave plate (CRHWP) is a promising tool to improve the sensitivity to large angular scales in cosmic microwave background (CMB) polarization measurements. With a CRHWP, single detectors can measure all three of the Stokes parameters, $I$, $Q$ and $U$, thereby avoiding the set of systematic errors that can be introduced by mismatches in the properties of orthogonal detector pairs. We focus on the implementation of CRHWPs in large aperture telescopes (i.e. the primary mirror is larger than the current maximum half-wave plate diameter of $\sim$0.5 m), where the CRHWP can be placed between the primary mirror and focal plane. In this configuration, one needs to address the intensity to polarization ($I{\rightarrow}P$) leakage of the optics, which becomes a source of 1/f noise and also causes differential gain systematics that arise from CMB temperature fluctuations. In this paper, we present the performance of a CRHWP installed in the POLARBEAR experiment, which employs a Gregorian telescope with a 2.5 m primary illumination pattern. The CRHWP is placed near the prime focus between the primary and secondary mirrors. We find that the $I{\rightarrow}P$ leakage is larger than the expectation from the physical properties of our primary mirror, resulting in a 1/f knee of 100 mHz. The excess leakage could be due to imperfections in the detector system, i.e. detector non-linearity in the responsivity and time-constant. We demonstrate, however, that by subtracting the leakage correlated with the intensity signal, the 1/f noise knee frequency is reduced to 32 mHz ($\ell \sim$39 for our scan strategy), which is sufficient to probe the primordial B-mode signal. We also discuss methods for further noise subtraction in future projects where the precise temperature control of instrumental components and the leakage reduction will play a key role.

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S. Takakura, M. Aguilar, Y. Akiba, et. al.
Fri, 24 Feb 17

Comments: 27 pages, 5 figures, 3 tables, to be submitted to JCAP

San Pedro Meeting on Wide Field Variability Surveys: Some Concluding Comments [IMA]

This is a written version of the closing talk at the 22nd Los Alamos Stellar pulsation conference on wide field variability surveys. It comments on some of the issues which arise from the meeting. These include the need for attention to photometric standardization (especially in the infrared) and the somewhat controversial problem of statistical bias in the use of parallaxes (and other methods of distance determination). Some major advances in the use of pulsating variables to study Galactic structure are mentioned. The paper includes a clarification of apparently conflicting results from classical Cepheids and RR Lyrae stars in the inner Galaxy and bulge. The importance of understanding non-periodic phenomena in variable stars,particularly AGB variables and RCB stars is stressed, especially for its relevance to mass-loss, in which pulsation may only play a minor role.

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M. Feast
Fri, 24 Feb 17

Comments: Conference on wide field variability surveys: a 21st-century perspective, 8 pages in press

The EBEX Balloon-Borne Experiment – Gondola, Attitude Control, and Control Software [IMA]

The E and B Experiment (EBEX) was a long-duration balloon-borne instrument designed to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. EBEX was the first balloon-borne instrument to implement a kilo-pixel array of transition edge sensor (TES) bolometric detectors and the first CMB experiment to use the digital version of the frequency domain multiplexing system for readout of the TES array. The scan strategy relied on 40 s peak-to-peak constant velocity azimuthal scans. We discuss the unique demands on the design and operation of the payload that resulted from these new technologies and the scan strategy. We describe the solutions implemented including the development of a power system designed to provide a total of at least 2.3 kW, a cooling system to dissipate 590 W consumed by the detectors’ readout system, software to manage and handle the data of the kilo-pixel array, and specialized attitude reconstruction software. We present flight performance data showing faultless management of the TES array, adequate powering and cooling of the readout electronics, and constraint of attitude reconstruction errors such that the spurious B-modes they induced were less than 10% of CMB B-mode power spectrum with $r=0.05$.

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EBEX. Collaboration, A. Aboobaker, P. Ade, et. al.
Fri, 24 Feb 17

Comments: 37 pages, 16 figures, submitted to ApJ Supp

PURIFYing real radio interferometric observations [IMA]

Next-generation radio interferometers, such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), will revolutionise our understanding of the universe through their unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. However, standard methods in radio interferometry produce reconstructed interferometric images that are limited in quality and they are not scalable for big data. In this work we apply and evaluate alternative interferometric reconstruction methods that make use of state-of-the-art sparse image reconstruction algorithms motivated by compressive sensing, which have been implemented in the PURIFY software package. In particular, we implement and apply the proximal alternating direction method of multipliers (P-ADMM) algorithm presented in a recent article. We apply PURIFY to real interferometric observations. For all observations PURIFY outperforms the standard CLEAN, where in some cases PURIFY provides an improvement in dynamic range by over an order of magnitude. The latest version of PURIFY, which includes the developments presented in this work, is made publicly available.

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L. Pratley, J. McEwen, M. dAvezac, et. al.
Thu, 23 Feb 17

Comments: 1 page, Proceedings of International BASP Frontiers Workshop 2017

TFAW: wavelet-based signal reconstruction to reduce photometric noise in time-domain surveys [IMA]

There have been many efforts to correct systematic effects in astronomical light curves to improve the detection and characterization of planetary transits and astrophysical variability in general. Algorithms like the Trend Filtering Algorithm (TFA) use simultaneously-observed stars to measure and remove systematic effects, and binning is used to reduce high-frequency random noise. We present TFAW, a modified version of TFA which reduces noise in variable-star light curves without modifying their intrinsic characteristics. We modified TFA’s iterative signal reconstruction by adding a Stationary Wavelet Transform filter which characterizes the noise- and trend-free signal and the underlying noise contribution at each iteration. The algorithm performs an adaptive noise estimation through the wavelet transform which reduces correlated and uncorrelated noise while preserving signals typical of astrophysical changes. We carried out tests over simulated sinusoidal and transit-like signals to assess the effectiveness of the method, and applied TFAW to real light curves from the Evryscope and TFRM. We also studied TFAW’s application to simulated multiperiodic signals. The TFAW improvement in RMS of simulated and real light curves ranges from 0.025 to 0.05 magnitudes compared to TFA. The signal-detection frequency power spectra remain almost unchanged for high SNR light curves, confirming that TFAW does not introduce new correlated noise sources. The signal detection efficiency of the power-spectrum peaks improves by a factor ~1.5 for low SNR light curves, allowing the recovery of transiting planets smaller than previous algorithms. TFAW is also able to improve the characterization of multiperiodic signals. We present two newly-discovered variable stars from Evryscope and TFRM. TFAW is a generic algorithm which is applicable to any kind of ground-based or space-based time-domain survey.

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D. Ser, O. Fors, J. Nunez, et. al.
Thu, 23 Feb 17

Comments: Submitted to Astronomy & Astrophysics. 10 pages, 12 figures

New Results from the Solar Maximum Mission Bent Crystal Spectrometer [IMA]

The Bent Crystal Spectrometer (BCS) onboard the NASA Solar Maximum Mission was part of the X-ray Polychromator, which observed numerous flares and bright active regions from February to November 1980, when operation was suspended as a result of the failure of the spacecraft fine pointing system. Observations resumed following the Space Shuttle SMM Repair Mission in April 1984 and continued until November 1989. BCS spectra have been widely used in the past to obtain temperatures, emission measures, and turbulent and bulk flows during flares, as well as element abundances. Instrumental details including calibration factors not previously published are given here, and the in-orbit performance of the BCS is evaluated. Some significant changes during the mission are described, and recommendations for future instrumentation are made. Using improved estimates for the instrument parameters and operational limits, it is now possible to obtain de-convolved, calibrated spectra that show finer detail than before, providing the means to improved interpretation of the physics of the emitting plasmas. The results indicate how historical, archived data can be re-used to obtain enhanced and new, scientifically valuable results.

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C. Rapley, J. Sylwester and K. Phillips
Thu, 23 Feb 17

Comments: Figures in B&W but will appear in color when published. Accepted for publication

Testing of General Relativity with Geodetic VLBI [IMA]

The geodetic VLBI technique is capable of measuring the Sun’s gravity light deflection from distant radio sources around the whole sky. This light deflection is equivalent to the conventional gravitational delay used for the reduction of geodetic VLBI data. While numerous tests based on a global set of VLBI data have shown that the parameter ‘gamma’ of the post-Newtonian approximation is equal to unity with a precision of about 0.02 percent, more detailed analysis reveals some systematic deviations depending on the angular elongation from the Sun. In this paper a limited set of VLBI observations near the Sun were adjusted to obtain the estimate of the parameter ‘gamma’ free of the elongation angle impact. The parameter ‘gamma’ is still found to be close to unity with precision of 0.06 percent, two subsets of VLBI data measured at short and long baselines produce some statistical inconsistency.

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O. Titov
Thu, 23 Feb 17

Comments: Proceedings of EVN-2016 Meeting