ALMA long baseline campaigns: Phase characteristics of atmosphere at long baselines in the millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths

Satoki Matsushita, Yoshiharu Asaki, Edward B. Fomalont, Koh Ichiro Morita, Denis Barkats, Richard E. Hills, Ryohei Kawabe, Luke T. Maud, Bojan Nikolic, Remo P.J. Tilanus, Catherine Vlahakis, Nicholas D. Whyborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We present millimeter- and submillimeter-wave phase characteristics measured between 2012 and 2014 of Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array long baseline campaigns. This paper presents the first detailed investigation of the characteristics of phase fluctuation and phase correction methods obtained with baseline lengths up to ~15 km. The basic phase fluctuation characteristics can be expressed with the spatial structure function (SSF). Most of the SSFs show that the phase fluctuation increases as a function of baseline length, with a power-law slope of ~0.6. In many cases, we find that the slope becomes shallower (average of ~0.2-0.3) at baseline lengths longer than ~1 km, namely showing a turn-over in SSF. These power law slopes do not change with the amount of precipitable water vapor (PWV), but the fitted constants have a weak correlation with PWV, so that the phase fluctuation at a baseline length of 10 km also increases as a function of PWV. The phase correction method using water vapor radiometers (WVRs) works well, especially for the cases where PWV> 1 µm, which reduces the degree of phase fluctuations by a factor of two in many cases. However, phase fluctuations still remain after the WVR phase correction, suggesting the existence of other turbulent constituent that cause the phase fluctuation. This is supported by occasional SSFs that do not exhibit any turn-over; these are only seen when the PWV is low (i.e., when the WVR phase correction works less effectively) or after WVR phase correction. This means that the phase fluctuation caused by this turbulent constituent is inherently smaller than that caused by water vapor. Since in these rare cases there is no turn-over in the SSF up to the maximum baseline length of ~15 km, this turbulent constituent must have scale height of 10 km or more, and thus cannot be water vapor, whose scale height is around 1 km. Based on the characteristics, this large scale height turbulent constituent is likely to be water ice or a dry component. Excess path length fluctuation after the WVR phase correction at a baseline length of 10 km is large (≳200 µm), which is significant for high frequency (>450 GHz or <700 µm) observations. These results suggest the need for an additional phase correction method to reduce the degree of phase fluctuation, such as fast switching, in addition to theWVR phase correction. We simulated the fast switching phase correction method using observations of single quasars, and the result suggests that it works well, with shorter cycle times linearly improving the coherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035004
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number973
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheric effects
  • Site testing
  • Techniques: high angular resolution
  • Techniques: interferometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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