Hi intensity mapping with MeerKAT: Calibration pipeline for multi-dish autocorrelation observations

Jingying Wang, Mario G Santos, Philip Bull, Keith Grainge, Steven Cunnington, José Fonseca, Melis O Irfan, Yichao Li, Alkistis Pourtsidou, Paula S Soares, Marta Spinelli, Gianni Bernardi, Brandon Engelbrecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Downloads (Pure)


While most purpose-built 21-cm intensity mapping experiments are close-packed interferometer arrays, general-purpose dish arrays should also be capable of measuring the cosmological 21-cm signal. This can be achieved most efficiently if the array is used as a collection of scanning autocorrelation dishes rather than as an interferometer. As a first step towards demonstrating the feasibility of this observing strategy, we show that we are able to successfully calibrate dual-polarization autocorrelation data from 64 MeerKAT dishes in the L band (856-1712 MHz, 4096 channels), with 10.5 h of data retained from six nights of observing. We describe our calibration pipeline, which is based on multilevel radio frequency interference flagging, periodic noise diode injection to stabilize gain drifts, and an absolute calibration based on a multicomponent sky model. We show that it is sufficiently accurate to recover maps of diffuse celestial emission and point sources over a 10° × 30° patch of the sky overlapping with the WiggleZ 11-h field. The reconstructed maps have a good level of consistency between per-dish maps and external data sets, with the estimated thermal noise limited to 1.4 × the theoretical noise level (∼2 mK). The residual maps have rms amplitudes below 0.1 K, corresponding to < 1 per cent of the model temperature. The reconstructed Galactic HI intensity map shows excellent agreement with the Effelsberg-Bonn HI Survey, and the flux of the radio galaxy 4C + 03.18 is recovered to within 3.6 per cent, which demonstrates that the autocorrelation can be successfully calibrated to give the zero-spacing flux and potentially help in the imaging of MeerKAT interferometric data. Our results provide a positive indication towards the feasibility of using MeerKAT and the future Square Kilometre Array to measure the HI intensity mapping signal and probe cosmology on degree scales and above.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3698-3721
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date17 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • cosmology: observations
  • instrumentation: spectrographs
  • large-scale structure of Universe
  • methods: data analysis
  • methods: statistical
  • radio lines: galaxies


Dive into the research topics of 'Hi intensity mapping with MeerKAT: Calibration pipeline for multi-dish autocorrelation observations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this