BALTICS training week 1, Ventspils, 18-22 April 2016

BALTICS Training Week 1 was delivered as part of Work Package 4 (WP4) at the University College, Ventspils, Latvia, from Monday 18 to Friday 22 April 2016. The aim of the week was to provide a basic introduction to two subjects: radio astronomy and radio interferometry.

Both modules were delivered in order to give sufficient background for later training weeks, in particular UMAN Training Week 2 (in August 2016 in Latvia) and the ASTRON training week projected for September 2016 in the Netherlands. The training was delivered by Prof Peter Wilkinson (PNW) and Dr Neal Jackson (NJ) from UMAN.

The programme for the week consists of a mixture of lectures and practical work on the related topics. The aim is to give a wide introduction to radio astronomy (source phenomenology and techniques of radio astronomy) as well as radio interferometry (basic principles, and hands-on examples which should allow participants to reduce simple radio interferometry data from e.g. the JVLA) by the end of the week. The examples and tutorials in the course involve prepared IPython notebooks, as well as examples of radio interferometry data and data handling.

Radio astronomy

The radio astronomy course (PNW) was delivered in the first 2.5 days. It consisted of six lectures covering phenomenology of radio astronomy sources, radiation mechanisms, the theory of antennas and reception of radio signals, noise and radio astronomy receiver systems, and an introduction to interferometry. Each lecture was followed by an extended question session.

Practical work consisted of interactive Python notebooks, developed by Anna Scaife (UMAN) from the BALTICS course team, on synchrotron radiation and the operation of the Dicke switch.

Radio interferometry

The radio interferometry course (NJ) was delivered in the second 2.5 days, beginning on the Wednesday lunchtime and ending at 4pm on Friday 22nd. It consisted of five lectures in concepts of interferometry, the Fourier transform relation between sky brightness and the visibility plane, spherical geometry in astronomical systems, the operation of interferometers, field of view calculations, image deconvolution and production of radio images of the sky, calibration methods for interferometers and the practical solution of atmospheric phase corruption. A large number of hands-on exercises were conducted as part of this course, including: Python notebooks on interferometry simulation; the use of the  Pynterferometer; simulator for demonstrating the effects of different sources and array configurations; an introduction to CASA, AIPS and Difmap, the three major basic radio interferometry software packages; and the use of CASA for making an image of some elementary interferometer data which was used as part of the course.