A flux scale for southern hemisphere 21 cm epoch of reionization experiments

Daniel Jacobs, Aaron R. Parsons, James E. Aguirre, Zaki Ali, Judd Bowman, Richard F. Bradley, Chris L. Carilli, David R. Deboer, Matthew R. Dexter, Nicole E. Gugliucci, Pat Klima, Dave H E Macmahon, Jason R. Manley, David F. Moore, Jonathan C. Pober, Irina I. Stefan, William P. Walbrugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We present a catalog of spectral measurements covering a 100-200 MHz band for 32 sources, derived from observations with a 64 antenna deployment of the Donald C. Backer Precision Array for Probing the Epoch of Reionization (PAPER) in South Africa. For transit telescopes such as PAPER, calibration of the primary beam is a difficult endeavor and errors in this calibration are a major source of error in the determination of source spectra. In order to decrease our reliance on an accurate beam calibration, we focus on calibrating sources in a narrow declination range from -46° to -40°. Since sources at similar declinations follow nearly identical paths through the primary beam, this restriction greatly reduces errors associated with beam calibration, yielding a dramatic improvement in the accuracy of derived source spectra. Extrapolating from higher frequency catalogs, we derive the flux scale using a Monte Carlo fit across multiple sources that includes uncertainty from both catalog and measurement errors. Fitting spectral models to catalog data and these new PAPER measurements, we derive new flux models for Pictor A and 31 other sources at nearby declinations; 90% are found to confirm and refine a power-law model for flux density. Of particular importance is the new Pictor A flux model, which is accurate to 1.4% and shows that between 100 MHz and 2 GHz, in contrast with previous models, the spectrum of Pictor A is consistent with a single power law given by a flux at 150 MHz of 382 ± 5.4 Jy and a spectral index of -0.76 ± 0.01. This accuracy represents an order of magnitude improvement over previous measurements in this band and is limited by the uncertainty in the catalog measurements used to estimate the absolute flux scale. The simplicity and improved accuracy of Pictor A's spectrum make it an excellent calibrator in a band important for experiments seeking to measure 21 cm emission from the epoch of reionization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 20 2013


  • catalogs
  • dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • instrumentation: interferometers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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