Science Highlight




ESO-Allegro Phase RMS database

We present a long-term overview of the atmospheric phase stability at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) site, using >5 years of data, that acts as the successor to the studies summarized two decades ago by Evans (2003).

We explore the atmospheric variations, the ‘phase RMS’, and associated metadata of over 17000 accrued ALMA observations taken since Cycle 3 (2015) by using the Bandpass calibrator source scans. We indicate the temporal phase RMS trends for average baseline lengths of 500, 1000, 5000, and 10000m, in contrast to the old stability studies that used a single 300m baseline phase monitor system.

At the ALMA site, on the Chajnantor plateau, we report the diurnal variations and monthly changes in the phase RMS on ALMA relevant baselines lengths, measured directly from data, and we reaffirm such trends in atmospheric transmission (via Precipitable Water Vapour - PWV). We confirm that day observations have respectively higher phase RMS and PWV in contrast to night, while the monthly variations show Chilean winter (June - August) providing the best, high-frequency and long-baseline observing conditions - low (stable) phase RMS and low PWV. Yet, not all good phase stability condition occur when the PWV is low.

Measurements of the phase RMS as a function of short timescales, 30 to 240 s, that tie with typical target source scan times (or the 'cycle time' in the limit that the phase calibrator scans are short, where the cycle time is the timescale to visit a phase calibrator, the target and back to the phase calibrator again), and as a function of baseline length indicate that phase variations are smaller for short timescales and baselines and larger for longer timescales and baselines. We illustrate that fast-switching phase-referencing techniques, that allow short target scan times, could work well in reducing the phase RMS to suitable levels specifically for high-frequencies (Band 8, 9 and 10), long-baselines, and the two combined. Understanding and counteracting atmospheric variations is fundamental for interferometric synthesis arrays and we provide a forward look for improving observing scenarios to use the conditions at the ALMA site most optimally in order to maximize the science return.

This page will be updated shortly with links to the database (SQL) and scripts as to generate useful plots.

For more information, see this ALMA memo.