Phase correction for ALMA. Investigating water vapour radiometer scaling: The long-baseline science verification data case study

L. T. Maud, R. P.J. Tilanus, T. A. Van Kempen, M. R. Hogerheijde, M. Schmalzl, I. Yoon, Y. Contreras, M. C. Toribio, Y. Asaki, W. R.F. Dent, E. Fomalont, S. Matsushita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The Atacama Large millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) makes use of water vapour radiometers (WVR), which monitor the atmospheric water vapour line at 183 GHz along the line of sight above each antenna to correct for phase delays introduced by the wet component of the troposphere. The application of WVR derived phase corrections improve the image quality and facilitate successful observations in weather conditions that were classically marginal or poor. We present work to indicate that a scaling factor applied to the WVR solutions can act to further improve the phase stability and image quality of ALMA data. We find reduced phase noise statistics for 62 out of 75 datasets from the long-baseline science verification campaign after a WVR scaling factor is applied. The improvement of phase noise translates to an expected coherence improvement in 39 datasets. When imaging the bandpass source, we find 33 of the 39 datasets show an improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) between a few to ~30 percent. There are 23 datasets where the S/N of the science image is improved: 6 by <1%, 11 between 1 and 5%, and 6 above 5%. The higher frequencies studied (band 6 and band 7) are those most improved, specifically datasets with low precipitable water vapour (PWV), <1 mm, where the dominance of the wet component is reduced. Although these improvements are not profound, phase stability improvements via the WVR scaling factor come into play for the higher frequency (>450 GHz) and long-baseline (>5 km) observations. These inherently have poorer phase stability and are taken in low PWV (<1 mm) conditions for which we find the scaling to be most effective. A promising explanation for the scaling factor is the mixing of dry and wet air components, although other origins are discussed. We have produced a python code to allow ALMA users to undertake WVR scaling tests and make improvements to their data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA121
JournalAstronomy and astrophysics
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheric effects
  • Methods: data analysis
  • Submillimeter: general
  • Techniques: high angular resolution
  • Techniques: interferometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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